New Role, Same Old Success0
By Chuck Slater
As the locally undefeated Panas volleyball team hits its way toward its upcoming bid for a repeat state championship in Class A, there is no doubt who is its best and most important player. The 6-foot, 2-inch senior outside hitter Yvette Burcescu, after all, is the reigning two-time New York State Player of the Year.
But the next most important is Sabrina Patriciello. An all-state libero the past two years, the 5-foot, 7-inch senior moved to the critical setter position to fill a graduation need and has come through like—well, like the all-stater she is. “She’s been setting all season,” said Joe Felipe, Panas’ highly successful coach, “and performing at a very high level.” As is her team. So the question still to be answered is: Is this Panthers squad the equal of the one that brought the school its first state championship in any sport last November?
You won’t get any disagreement from Patriciello, who has dabbled in track, varsity basketball and bowling “just for fun” but devoted herself to only one sport. “I’ve been playing volleyball since I was 12,” she says, “and I love all there is about it. I like the constant motion. I forget everything else when I’m playing.” Of her new position this season, she says, “Setting is a completely different world. I like how I’m involved in every play on offense. Libero (essentially a rear retrieval role) is involved in defense.”
She has rung up some super stats at her new position. Just two weeks ago, she had totaled 551 assists, 43 kills and 102 digs along with 47 aces. Further, on her team, Patriciello says, “And I’m playing on a team with my best friends. I love it.” And she loves helping others, as does the whole team with the Lustgarten Foundation Cancer Walk each year. The libero-turned-setter also teaches volleyball to youngsters.
Would she want to continue playing competitively in whatever college she chooses? “I’d really like that,” she said. What Patriciello and her talented teammates would really like on the eve of the playoffs is to extend their season up to another 10 successful games as they try to make it two state titles in a row.
How good are they? Not long ago they defeated Class AA – the class above theirs – champion Ossining, which returned nearly its full championship team, in three straight games. How good are they? As good as a year ago? Or perhaps almost as good, as in 2015, when Panas lost in the state final? “Ask me after the playoffs,” said Joe Felipe.