Lisa Panici back for ‘Dig Panici’

Strength. It was written in body paint in the student section in a packed Kris Russell Arena Friday night.

It was also displayed on the court as the Warhawks (8-3) defeated St. Olaf College (6-6) 3-0 on, ‘Dig Panici,’ night.

Freshman Alivia Holman spikes the ball down to a St. Olaf defender. The ‘Hawks defeated the Oles 3-0 Friday night. 712 people showed up for ‘Dig Panici’, the event held for former UW-Whitewater volleyball player Lisa Panici raised over $2,500. Photo by Andrew Smith

Among the 712 Warhawk faithful in attendance were, “The Irresistible Force,” Lisa Panici and her parents. Panici made her return to Whitewater for the first time since last April.

Proceeds for the event went to aid Panici in her fight against stage-four brain cancer. Over $2,500 was raised.

Panici took the court with her teammates for introductions and once No. 12 was called she received a standing ovation, which moved several of her teammates to tears. She then spent the game on the sidelines and in the huddle with the team.

Unfortunately for the Oles, they could not have picked a worse time to play the `Hawks at home. Going into the game the team was undefeated at home, and had its greatest source of inspiration back in the building, Panici.

“Lisa being there was an incredible motivator for the girls it was an amazing night for everyone,” an emotional Head Coach Stacy Boudreau said. “We love her, we miss her and we wish she was still out there on the court with us.”

The `Hawks jumped out to an early lead and stayed ahead until late in the first set when the Oles tied it up 20-20. It would not be enough as Whitewater took the first set. The `Hawks would then quickly take the second set as the Oles were left scrambling to call timeouts to stifle the Warhawks offense.

The energy from the crowd had been building all night long, but finally came to a fever pitch when chants of “Lisa” echoed off of the walls when it came time for the match point.

“This was a big game for us; we knew St. Olaf would play well especially after they beat Platteville,” Boudreau said. “But we came out tonight and played the best we have all season.” She also said that Panici was the catalyst for their success that night, but even Panici was surprised at the effect her presence had on the team’s performance.

“I can’t believe the way they all came together tonight,” Panici said. “We were so fast and so dominant; it was the prettiest game of volleyball I’ve ever seen.”

Panici was elated to be back on campus, as she admitted her new junior college is no UW-Whitewater.

“It’s great coming back here and seeing all the people I knew,” she said. “I really miss getting to be on campus and especially being around my teammates.”

After Panici’s departure, the team will prepare for its conference opener at UW-Stevens Point at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21. Coach Boudreau is expecting a tough game for her team.

“They have a middle who likes to run slides, which is something we have had trouble defending against,” she said. “Their strengths might bring out some of our weaknesses, but we will be ready to go.”

Panici’s final thoughts turned to the people who have supported her through this difficult time in her life.

“It’s nice to not be forgotten, even after only being here for a semester, the feeling is extraordinary,” Panici said. “To the students that have supported me, I love you. I may not know you, but I love you.”