The Port Allegany volleyball team closed out its 2019 campaign with a five-set win at Northern Potter on Oct. 21, defeating the Panthers 25-20, 25-20, 15-25, 17-25, 17-15 to finish a rebuilding season at 5-13 (5-11 North Tier League).

More important than wins or losses, though, was the teamwork and effort the squad displayed before and during its Oct. 17 Senior Night match against Galeton. Pulling together a “Dig Pink” awareness and fundraising campaign in less than a week, the Gators raised $1,100 for the Pink Pumpkin Project, an Olean-based nonprofit organization that provides financial and emotional support to area residents undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

“Last Saturday at the Kane Tournament (on Oct. 12), we decided that we wanted to have a ‘Dig Pink,’” explained Theresa Daniels, whose daughter Maleah is one of three seniors on this year’s roster. “We had gone to Smethport the week before and they had done one, and we thought, ‘Wow.’ Maleah and I looked at our calendar, and I said, ‘The only other night to do ‘Dig Pink’ is your Senior Night.’

“She said, ‘Let’s do it, Mom.’

“I said, ‘You realize you only have five nights to prepare for something so enormous.’

“She said, ‘I would be honored to do this on my Senior Night,’ and the seniors talked and the other two said the same thing. So we rallied together, calling people asking for donations, everywhere from Coudersport to Roulette to Port Allegany.”

With the ‘volleyball mamas’ swinging into action, the team raised money with games, raffles, a bake sale, and a chance auction which drew almost three dozen prize donations from area families and businesses. Inside a packed PAHS gym, festooned with posters painted by the players at one of their practices and with a sizable student section decked out in pink for the occasion, announcements were made to honor survivors of the disease and acknowledge those who have passed.

“This is small-town U.S.A. When you rally for a cause, it’s amazing what you can do,” Mrs. Daniels said. “We raised $1,100 in one night. That’s just really heartwarming. Five days. Is that not incredible? Pretty proud to be a Gator tonight.”

The match itself was controlled by the playoff-bound Tigers, with talented freshman Alli Macensky pounding out 12 kills and blocking four Gator hits and junior Alexis Johnson contributing six kills, two blocks, and seven aces.

“This team works extremely well together. We’ve been building for a number of years, and they play like a well-oiled machine,” said Galeton coach Jessica Green. “They trust each other, they know who’s going to be where when, and it’s just been a smooth ride this season.”

For the Gators, Shannon Curfman recorded seven kills and fellow junior Jade Evens dealt out six aces, while seniors Daniels (three aces), Naylor (four blocks), and Preston played their final match on their home floor.

At Ulysses, Naylor led the offense with 15 kills and five blocks, Daniels notched six kills, Evens chipped in with six kills, five aces and two blocks, and Marah Rush handed out 23 assists as the Gators completed the season sweep.