HOWE — The 2017 3A Region II Bi-District playoff action concluded for the Van Alstyne Lady Panthers with a three-set loss against Callisburg, 14-25, 11-25, 16-25, at Howe High School on Friday, Oct. 30. Despite the loss, Alyssa Hill and the rest of the Van Alstyne volleyball team held their own against the number two state-ranked Callisburg and finished the season with the grace and class the community and Van Alstyne High School sports supporters have come to love and expect from their Lady Panthers.


Van Alstyne (15-14) finished up the postseason with a respectable district record of 7-6. The Lady Panthers played hard and pushed their limits as they showed first-year head coach Veronica Valdez what they are made of this season. The Van Alstyne volleyball team has overcame many obstacles on the court in 2017, beginning with a rough start as the team got to know their new coach and adapt to the improvements in the volleyball program before taking on tough rivals as the season progressed.


“Each player has a different role on the team,” Valdez said, “but a few that have offered heart, morale and teammate support would definitely be Brittany O’Hanlon and Janea Larriviere. Both of these girls provide so much more than just volleyball skills.”


The Lady Panthers were not without an excellent system of support in the 2017 season, with the biggest achievement for the team being advancing past district with the help of team leaders and the many other volleyball players who have stepped up to put forth the extra effort that made all the difference for Valdez in her first season with the team.


O’Hanlon was a highlight in the matches against Callisburg and in the previous week against Leonard. “Brittany took on the role of senior leadership with such grace,” Valdez said. “She was always a level headed and consistent role model for all the underclassmen to follow.”


Larriviere has contributed more than just points on the scoreboard for the Lady Panthers as she stepped up in a big way for Van Alstyne and has proven to be one of the more consistent players in the postseason and helped keep the team’s spirits up through even the most stressful of losses.


“Janea has been the comic relief for this team,” Valdez said. “She is an absolute joy to be around and lifts the spirits of anyone around her. She is light-hearted in the midst of a sport that can sometimes be very adverse and demanding. Both (Larriviere and O’Hanlon) did an amazing job on the court as far as volleyball goes, but our team would not have been the same without their individual personalities to push us through some difficult times.”


Alyssa Hill led Van Alstyne in scoring against Callisburg in Monday’s playoff match. Hill was a major contributor to the team throughout the 2017 season and a key factor to the Lady Panthers earning a spot among the top four teams in district and advancing to the 3A Region II Bi-District round.


“Losing early in the playoffs is always going to be a tough thing to overcome,” Valdez said. “The girls played their hearts out and were not out-hustled in our match against Callisburg.”


The 2017 Lady Panthers began the season with a rough start and concluded the season with a finale that will be remembered for their determination and will continue to serve as an example to future Lady Panther volleyball teams.


“I was pleasantly surprised with the grit and confidence with which we played Monday night,” Valdez said. “We ended the season in the best way we possibly could in those circumstances.”


While the season has ended for Van Alstyne, the fans and supporters will now await the coaches in district 10 to vote for All-District selections to be announced in the near future. Be sure to follow the Leader online for the all-district selections and all Lady Panther news and updates at www.VanAlstyneLeader.com/Sports.