By Lisa Byers
Prior to the start of the District 10 Class AA girls volleyball championship, announcer Tom Hayden offered apologies on behalf of District 10 for any convenience caused by moving the championships from Meadville Area Senior High School to Cochranton.
The championships were originally scheduled at MASH, but a water main break there in the morning forced District 10 to make different arrangements.
Of the four teams participating in the Class A and AA title matches, however, only Meadville had to vastly alter its morning routine. Some players were in Erie taking their SATs. A few others were unable to be reached. It wound up being quite the morning for the Bulldogs and head coach Tammy Webber, who also had to see that each player had a ride to the venue. No bus was provided.
And how they adjusted was going to play a huge factor in their Class AA title match versus Fort LeBoeuf.
The Bulldogs did eventually settle in and gave the defending District 10 champion Bison everything they could handle. But Meadville came up short in the end as it fell to the fourth-ranked Bison, 25-11, 23-25, 29-27, 25-23.
And while the 25-11 opening set loss was big, it was the 29-27 loss in the third set that was crucial.
The Bulldogs had all the momentum in that third set. They had just taken Game 2 and led 5-1 in the third set, a lead that later grew to six (17-11).
The Bison rallied back to tie it at 19-19. That’s where things got exciting.
Fort LeBoeuf extended that lead to two (23-21). A Monica Jackson kill and ace by Katie Newman knotted the score at 23-23. Meadville took a 24-23 lead on another kill by Jackson.
Meadville had game point three times, but the Bison answered every time. Allania Banta’s ace and a net violation by Meadville finished it off for LeBoeuf.
“We had it,” Webber said. “But it’s the same thing … We get to play again Tuesday and hopefully we see them again. Potentially we could play them again.”
Fort LeBoeuf coach Leann Byer had some concerns after that third set.
“Both teams have expended themselves so much emotionally, they don’t have much left,” she said. “And I was nervous about coming into Game 4. We had just expended all this energy and all this emotion and all this high and now we’re back at 0-0.
“A lot of girls would lose focus at that point.”
The Bison did not.
The Bulldogs do advance to the first round of the PIAA Class AA tournament despite the loss. They will face the winner of a subregional between the District 9 champion Punxsutawney and runner-up Bradford, the District 8 champion and the District 5 champion on Tuesday at a site and time to be determined.
Fort LeBoeuf moves on to face the WPIAL third seed either Ambridge or Indiana at 6 p.m. on Tuesday at Cochranton High School.