SAEGERTOWN — What’s better, knocking off the second-ranked team in the state, or beating your neighborhood rival in front of a rabid home audience?

Not an easy call. But fortunately for the Saegertown boys volleyball team, it wasn’t a choice the Panthers had to make as they croaked both those birds with the same stone, toppling Cambridge Springs over the course of five intense battles on Thursday night at the Panthers Den.

The final score was the Panthers in a roller coaster, 25-20, 22-25, 16-25, 27-25, 15-8.

“We wanted to beat them because they’re the second team in the state,” said Saegertown junior hitter Pat Amy, noting that the Blue Devils were ranked second in Class AA by the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association.

“And we wanted to knock them out because they were a PENNCREST rival too,” he added. “It was a tough match. But we fought through it and ended up winning it in the end.”

Saegertown, now 4-2 overall and 2-0 in Region 1, found themselves trailing two games to one with three in the books. Riding a wave of early emotion, and sizzling the ball from the baseline, the Panthers won the first game convincingly, 25-20.

But Cambridge had their way in games two and three.

“(Saegertown) played with a lot of emotion that first game and really took it to is,” said Spa coach Rick Welker. “But games two and three, we started controlling the match.”

Cambridge (5-2, 2-1 Region 1) simply put a hurting on the Panthers in third game, finishing it off with a 10-4 scoring run to win it 25-16.

Even so, the Panthers weren’t hanging their heads after that tough loss.

“Two weeks ago, if we would have lost a game like we lost that third game, the match would have been over,” said Saegertown coach Justin Johnson.

What’s changed since then?

“Our experience,” he said. “I think we’re more mature. And we’re working harder in practice. And that’s what’s making the difference right now.”

Cambridge carried some of that game three momentum into the fourth, winning the first three points and maintaining a decent lead all the way to 9-6. However, the Blue Devils let some volleys get away from them, and Saegertown climbed back in the contest with a four-point run, taking a 10-9 lead.

“The fourth game, we started off running our offense, getting a lot of good things happening,” said Welker. “But then we made, like, three or four unforced errors consecutively. We let (Saegertown) back into the game. And they took the momentum from there.”

The two teams trading crushing blow after crushing blow as the extended fourth game thundered on.

With the score tied 25-25, Saegertown hitter Kyle Beatty drilled the ball into the court for one of his 20 kills, pushing the Cats ahead. Then a Cambridge kill went long, giving Saegertown the win and moving the match into a fifth game.

“(The fourth game) was definitely the turning point of the match, right there,” said Amy. “That gave us the momentum to win the match.”

The fifth game wasn’t much of one. Saegertown simply dominated. At one point, the Panthers tallied seven straight points to take a 10-3 lead.

The Panthers sputtered a bit at the finish line, needing four match-points to close it out. But Cats hitter Casey Handel drove a spike into the hardwood, ending the match and igniting an ecstatic Saegertown cheering section.

“Cambridge came into this game where everybody wanted to be,” Johnson said. “They were the best team in the league. And that’s what everybody wants to be.”

Is that what the Panthers are now?

“We’re getting there,” Johnson said. “We’re getting there.”

Beatty had 10 blocks to add to his 20 kills. Amy added 14 kills to the Panthers’ tally. Randy Shaffer scored 14 digs and Josh Allio came up with eight. Jason Amy dished out 42 assists.

For Cambridge, Matt McMunigle had 10 kills and nine digs. Colton Spaid recorded 10 kills and nine digs. Lucas Acker had eight kills and 13 digs. James Tobin had six kills. Tyler Dunton had seven digs. And Corey Hobson tallied 33 assists.



Pete Chiodo can be reached at 724-6370 ext. 275 or by e-mail at pchiodo@meadvilletribune.com.

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