Meadville Tribune

November 16, 2013

Cardinals’ special season falls short in PIAA title game

By Lisa Byers
Meadville Tribune

YORK — Most of the Cochranton girls volleyball team had already made its way back to the auxiliary gymnasium to meet friends and family for hugs of support before Madison Bernarding came wandering back.

Bernarding stared straight ahead — a medal dangling from her neck and a large trophy tucked securely in her arms — as she made her way through the crowd to join her teammates. The senior outside hitter was in a state of disbelief.

For the last several weeks, everything had gone Cochranton’s way. But on Saturday, the Lady Cardinals simply had no answer.

Marian Catholic captured the 2013 PIAA Class A state championship yesterday morning with a 25-16, 25-23, 25-17 win over Cochranton at Central York High School.

“I don’t know,” Bernarding said. “I don’t know. We just didn’t show up I guess.”

The key, as it had been all season long for Cochranton, was serve receive. This time, however, instead of putting the pressure on the opposition from the service line, it was the Lady Cardinals who struggled.

“We didn’t pass at all (yesterday),” Cochranton coach Marci Malliard said. “We couldn’t get anything going on offense. We were constantly on the defense. It’s a passing game.

“They served tough. But I think we’ve seen equally good serving teams. We just didn’t have a passing game.”

Credit to Marian Catholic.

Marian Catholic coach John Fallabel had a scouting report on the Cardinals and he knew the best way to attack Cochranton was to put pressure on them and prevent setter Morghan Egli from getting clean sets up to her power hitters. Of course, it isn’t something the Fillies have done just against the Cardinals.

Fallabel said his team has worked a lot — even during the offseason — on its serving game.

“Some girls went out and played club volleyball and brought back a float jump serve,” he said. “Some of the other girls just naturally practice aggressive serves. It’s how you win championships at this level.”

From the start, it looked like fans — the majority of them sporting Cochranton red — were going to be in for an exciting match. The Fillies did lead by as many as three early in the first set. But as they have all season, the Cardinals kept plugging along and eventually tied the score at 15-15.

Cochranton scored just one more point as Marian captured the opening set 25-16.

The Cardinals had a chance to tie it up in Game 2. Marian Catholic, again, led most of the way, but Cochranton rallied back, eventually taking a 21-19 lead. A service error and attack error allowed the Fillies to knot it up at 21-21. Marian Catholic took the lead on a kill by Maureen Kloap and extended it to two (23-21) on an ace by Grace Boyle.

Cochranton did pull back to within one (23-22) on a kill by Kassidy Dickson. But the Fillies answered with another kill by Kloap, this one off a block, for the 25-23 win and a two-game lead.

The Cardinals never recovered.

“It was like we were playing not to lose and not playing to win,” Malliard said. “You can’t play that way.”

Marian Catholic finished the match with 14 service aces. Boyle, Abby O’Donnell and Kloap had three each.

“This is what I stress at practice with the girls,” Fallabel said. “You get five seconds to perform something on a volleyball court that nobody else can control. No one is yelling at you. No one is blocking you … It’s a free serve. It’s your shot to do something.”

What can’t be lost sight of is the season Cochranton had and the hard work and dedication that went into making it happen. Bernarding is a fine example.

Bernarding wasn’t supposed to have the impact she did this season. She was supposed to sidelined much longer as she continued therapy from a Lisfranc fracture she suffered during the Cardinals’ District 10 girls basketball championship game against Kennedy Catholic last winter. But Bernarding defied odds as the Lady Cardinals did time and time again.

They were warriors — warriors that finished the season at 19-1 and as one of only three teams in program history to make it to the state finals. They are warriors who can boast being state silver medalists.

“It’s hard to feel it now,” Malliard said. “But eventually they will be proud of what they have done. Like I told them, ‘You are one of two teams in single-A left playing volleyball right now.’ It’s going to take a while, but they have to be proud of themselves.”

“We can’t look back on our season and think that it wasn’t good,” Kendell Dickson added. “There are kind of mixed feelings. We’re upset, but excited.”

Dickson is one of four players who played their final volleyball match for Cochranton yesterday — joining Bernarding, Katie Boeckenhauer and Tristan Knauff — and what a season she had.

“Their No. 20 (Kendell Dickson) is an absolutely wonderful player,” Fallabel said. “And their setter … That’s a beautiful team. Your heart breaks for them. You hate to see someone lose. But there has to be a winner.”

Kendell Dickson finished with nine kills and four blocks for the Cardinals. Bernarding added four kills.

For the Fillies (24-2), Kloap had 11 kills, while Abigail Stankiewitch added nine.

Yesterday’s state title match was a rematch of the 2004 state semifinals. Cochranton beat the Fillies on its way to the state title. It’s a moment that has stuck with Fallabel for some time.

“This is payback for 2004 with the Fox sisters,” he said with a grin. “I remember that. And you can ask the girls how many times I stop practice and scream and yell when someone tips on the floor.”