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April 17, 2013

H.S. BOYS VOLLEYBALL: Cardinals hold off Tigers

GUYS MILLS — Just moments after Nick Dickson was carried off the court during Cochranton’s District 10 Class A championship basketball game against Kennedy Catholic, Brad Custead’s phone lit up.

“I started getting phone calls and texts,” said Custead, the Cardinals’ boys volleyball coach. “He’s my cousin, so my family was calling me. I was like, ‘You have got to be kidding me.’ Then my assistant was listening on the radio and called and said, ‘They are carrying Nick off the court for some reason.’”

It was Custead’s worst nightmare. The starting setter from last year’s District 10 championship team had suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament and days later underwent surgery putting an end to his volleyball season before it even began.

Custead, who was set to return a good portion of that team that wowed District 10 a year ago, was suddenly without one of his team’s main cogs and was  forced to start making some tough decisions. Fortunately for Custead, he isn’t the only coach in District 10 this season making those decisions.

District 10, in general, is young and inexperienced this season. Meadville and Saegertown both return quite a bit of experience. But they, too, are missing some key players due to graduation.

Maplewood has just one returning starter: setter Justin Dahl. And Cochranton? With Dickson on the sidelines, the Cardinals sent just six players to the court initially for pregame warmups.

So with the Region 1 season set to start for everyone but Meadville and McDowell — who opened on Tuesday — on Thursday, there is no sure bet as to who will come away a champion in the end.

But it should be another very competitive season, especially if the region season starts like Tuesday ended for Cochranton and Maplewood in their rematch of last year’s District 10 championship match.

Fans were treated to quite a show as Cochranton held off a number of Maplewood rallies to win the match 25-23,           25-18, 25-23.

“It was a good game,” Custead said. “It was a really good defensive game, which is what I expected. Maplewood and us are pretty comparable this season. We’re making changes. They’re making changes.”

All three games were up for grabs until right around the very end.

Games 1 and 3 were tied at 23-23. In Game 2, Maplewood led 14-10 before Logan Herzberger stepped to the service line for the Cardinals. He left the line with Cochranton up 20-14.

“We’re gaining,” Maple-wood coach Sheila Bancroft said. “We improve every game. (Last night) I thought we did some really good things. We made some really good plays, but we didn’t finish any of those plays.”

That comes with the youth.

“They didn’t give up,” Bancroft said. “They got down 2-0 and could have given up, but they came back and played with a little fire in that third game. They are a bit frustrated right now, because they couldn’t complete that third game.

“We’ve got to learn how to finish a game. We aren’t there yet.”

It’s go time now, however.

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