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June 2, 2012

PIAA VOLLEYBALL: Cardinals’ dream season comes to an end in PIAA Class AA quarterfinals

June 2, 2012 7:00 a.m. STATE COLLEGE — The District 10 champion Cochranton boys volleyball team may have fallen short of a state title. Yet, the Cardinals can still take solace in the fact that they proved a lot of people wrong this year.

“Oh, we had an excellent year,” said Cochranton head coach Brad Custead. “I just got done telling the kids, don’t let this bring you down after the season we had. I mean, nobody at the beginning of the year, all season long, even up until districts, expected us to be here.”

He added, “That group of kids is one of the top eight teams in the state. That says a lot.”

During Friday’s pool play round at the PIAA Championships at Penn State University’s Multi-sport Indoor Facility; the Cardinals went 4-5. That left them in third place in their pool — Pool B.

Dover, which went 7-2, took first in Pool B. And Ambridge finished second in the pool with a record of 6-3. Both of those teams will move on to the semifinal round, which begins today at 9 a.m.

Dover will face Pool A runner-up Bethlehem Catholic. Ambridge will take on Pool A winner York Suburban.

Cochranton, meanwhile, heads home boasting its deepest playoff run since 2003.

“Just to make it here is an accomplishment,” said Custead. “And it’s a good thing for our younger kids to be a part of it, and to see it and to experience it and to give them that drive to want to come back next year and the following year and for years to come.”

Cochranton got yesterday’s action started with a 24-26, 25-20, 25-17 win over District 2 champion Holy Redeemer.

A jittery start hurt the Cardinals in the first game, as Holy Redeemer took an early lead. Yet, Cochranton enjoyed a 10-1 rally at the midway point to take a 20-14 lead. However, the Cards couldn’t close it out and the Royals rebounded to claim the game 26-24.

That go-on-a-run, give-up-a-run back-and-forth would remain Cochranton’s modus operandi for most of the day on Friday.

“We’d work our butt off to get three, four points and then we’d shank three serves of theirs and give it right back to them,” said Custead. “That was kind of the story (Friday). Passing hurt us.”

Still, Cochranton put together two strong games to finish off Holy Redeemer. The Royals helped the Cards out with some sloppy play in the second game. And Cardinals hitters Josh Oertly and Josh Vanderhoof had some strong performances to lead the team in the third game.

Cochranton seemed to carry that over into the Ambridge match. In game one, Cochranton tallied a 9-2 run to grab a 12-7 lead. But then the WPIAL champion Bridgers answered with a seven-point run to pull ahead 14-12. The two sides battled to a 22-22 tie. Then Ambridge committed three straight kill errors to give the game to the Cardinals.

Michael Shirey and Chad Eisenhooth both had big games at the net to lead the Cards in the victory.  

But then something happened in the second game against Ambridge. The Cards just were not clicking. They had just four successful attacks the whole game and issued eight kill errors. Ambridge rolled to a 25-14 win.

“It is what it is,” said Custead. “Sometimes they go your way, sometimes they don’t. I think if we were passing better we would have stayed out of trouble, but we weren’t. We just couldn’t get into a groove.”

Cochranton cleaned it up some in game three, but not enough. And the Bridgers — led by a do-it-all performance from sophomore hitter Lee Smith — claimed the match with a 25-20 win in the third game.

That loss left Cochranton in a tough spot.

“(The Ambridge match) made the difference,” said Custead. “If we could have taken that one game, we still would be playing.” 

After losing to the Bridgers, the Cardinals were tied with Ambridge in the pool standings at 3-3. Ambridge’s final match was against Holy Redeemer, probably the weakest team in the pool. And Cochranton was faced with having to beat District 3 runner-up Dover, which was arguably the best team in the pool.

That didn’t happen. Dover, led by three tough hitters in Tyler Lehman, Brendan Warren and Ryan Lamparter, dominated the first set 25-13 and rallied from a 19-15 deficit with a late eight-point run to win the second 25-20.

Having sealed up the pool, Dover put in a few substitutions, whom Cochranton beat 25-19.

“Dover is a very, very nice team,” Custead said. “They should be right there at the end.”

The tournament marks the end of the careers of two heavy hitters for Cochranton — Oertly and Shirey. Casey Adams also graduates.

“Great group of kids,” said Custead. “Great group of seniors — the two starting seniors, and a senior that just came back to play this year. (Adams) led the bench and (Oertly and Shirey) led the court. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of kids. And the parents were great. They were all down here. It was just a great season.

“I just hope they all walk out of here with their heads high and are proud of how far they got this year.”

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