By Lisa Byers
This is supposed to be Meadville’s season.
The Bulldogs are equipped with four talented seniors, of course, including a pair of returning all-District 10 nods.
But for a moment Wednesday night it looked as though the Bulldogs would fall short of those expectations. And for the second year in a row, it looked as though Harbor Creek would provide the ammunition.
Unlike a year ago, this year’s Lady Bulldogs proved they can overcome adversity.
Harbor Creek rallied back from a two-game deficit to force a fifth and deciding set and appeared to have all the momentum on its side. But the Bulldogs pulled it together in the end to earn a 25-11, 25-21, 19-25, 23-25, 15-8 win in the District 10 Class AA girls volleyball quarterfinals on Wednesday at the House of Thrills.
“Oh my goodness,” Meadville senior outside hitter Leah Jones said. “After the first game I felt like we all felt pretty confident going into it. But I don’t know.
“This has happened more than once over the season. We make one mistake and it leads to another. Then we have to start digging ourselves out of holes that we create. But I know that we wanted that so bad and we couldn’t let it end like that.”
The Bulldogs did come on strong in the first set and proved they were on a mission. Meadville’s dynamic duo of Jones and Monica Jackson were simply unstoppable and helped Meadville jump out to a 19-5 lead over the Huskies, coached by Conneaut Valley graduate Ryan Smock.
Meadville seemed to be in complete domination. In Game 2, though, the Bulldogs just sneaked by for a 25-21 win. The next two sets, Meadville would rather forget.
“It seemed like an us against the world kind of thing,” Meadville coach Tammy Webber said of Games 3 and 4. “We just couldn’t string enough positives together to get something going. Every time we’d do something positive there would be a negative to come along or (Harbor Creek) would do something positive.
“We just couldn’t get back in a groove.”
It wasn’t until midway through the fifth set that something clicked.
Harbor Creek took a 3-0 lead in the deciding set. A pair of hitting errors by the Huskies pulled the Bulldogs to within one and they tied it up on a kill by Jackson. Meadville and Harbor Creek were tied two more times until Meadville took the lead for good on another attack error.
“I know that we all felt that we could do so much better than that,” Jones said. “We know it’s disappointing. The important thing is we pulled through it and did what we had to do.”
The Bulldogs advance to today’s semifinals where they will face Region 4 rival Conneaut at 8 p.m. Meadville and Conneaut split during the regular season and shared the region crown.
Cards roll over Ms. Reds
Following a four-set loss to Maplewood in the final weeks of the regular season that ultimately decided the Region 2 championship, Cochranton head coach Marci Malliard stressed her team’s need to become more balanced.
The Lady Cardinals answered Malliard’s plead in the quarterfinal round of the District 10 Class A championships on Wednesday and the result was a 25-7, 25-14, 25-9 win over West Middlesex.
The Cards had three players with at least seven kills in the win led by junior Madison Bernarding, who tallied nine. Kendell Dickson added eight and Katie Boeckenhauer chipped in with seven.
“Katie had a nice night and so did Madi,” Malliard said. “And we absolutely have to have that. It’s too easy for someone’s offense to key on Aubrey (Hering) and Kendell.”
Carli Gledhill led the Cards’ defense with 14 digs.
The Cardinals advance to today’s semifinals where they will meet Sharpsville, ranked third in the state in Class A by the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association, at 6 p.m. back at MASH.
And as good as the Cardinals were on Wednesday, Malliard said they will definitely have to improve on serve-receive to get past the Blue Darlings.
“We didn’t serve-receive very well,” Malliard said. “We passed free balls up there pretty well and we were able to get swings and handle the ball that way. But our serve-receive game is not where it needs to be going into (tonight).”
A clean sweep
Saegertown made it a clean sweep for Region 2 in last night’s quarterfinals with an interesting four-game win over Kennedy Catholic. The Panthers won the quarterfinal matchup 23-25, 25-22, 25-18, 25-10.
“That’s our team. Jekyll and Hyde,” Saegertown coach Brian Shoop said. “We need to come in (tonight) with a different mindset. Otherwise we are walking out of here awfully fast.
“We’re capable of playing well and when they walk out of this gym (tonight) they can’t say, ‘I wish I would have.’”
The Panthers had a very up and down evening against the Eagles, the Region 1 runner-up. In Game 1, Saegertown had a 20-17 lead only to see Kennedy respond with a 5-0 run to take a 22-20 lead which it never relinquished.
In Game 2, Saegertown led 17-14. Kennedy, again, rallied back and tied the set at 20. This time the Panthers were able to hang on for the win.
Sarah Allen led the Panthers with 21 service points. McKenna Morian followed with 11 service points. Courtney Lilly had 21 kills. Rachel DiBartolomeo finished with 29 assists and 10 digs. Mackensie Garris also had 10 digs.
Saegertown will face Maplewood today at 6 p.m. in the District 10 Class A semifinals. The Panthers took Maplewood to five sets in a loss in their first meeting of the season and fell in three in the last meeting.
“When Maplewood played us at their place they played really, really well,” Shoop said. “Certain players really played really well. It’s about showing up one night to play the game.”