By Lisa Byers
Saegertown was pretty much an afterthought when considering Region 2 title favorites at the start of the season.
But on Sept. 19, the Lady Panthers made quite a statement, sweeping Cambridge Springs, then ranked No. 4 in the state in Class A by the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association.
That night the Blue Devils gave the Panthers some hope. On Tuesday, they took it away.
Cambridge Springs all but eliminated the Panthers from postseason consideration last night with a 25-22, 25-16, 17-25, 25-18 win at the Panthers Den.
Saegertown fell to 6-5 overall and in region play. The District 10 Class A tournament field will consist of the Region 1 and 2 champions and four at-large teams.
The Panthers are currently fifth among those at-large teams with a .545 overall winning percentage.
Sharpsville is the fourth place team at .692 with four total matches remaining, including a non-region tilt against Class AAA McDowell. The Blue Darlings would have to lose all four of its remaining games and Saegertown would have to win its remaining three contests for the Panthers to warrant a look from the District 10 tournament committee.
“Absolutely,” Saegertown coach Brian Shoop said. “This was one we had to have.”
Of course, it’s a match Cambridge Springs had to have too to remain in the Region 2 title race.
The Blue Devils moved to 11-2 overall and 9-2 in Region 2 with the win and remain just two games back of leader Cochranton (11-0, 11-0 Region 2). Cambridge Springs and Cochranton meet at the Devils Den on Thursday.
Cochranton also has a meeting with third-place Maplewood among its remaining matches.
Needless to say, the Blue Devils were fired up and they were eager to seek revenge.
“There was some hostility coming in here,” Cambridge Springs senior outside hitter Paige Wolfrom said. “It was a rough game and we wanted revenge.”
Early on, though, it looked like the Panthers may have wanted the match a little bit more. Cambridge struggled to get into a groove in the first set and errors mounted, allowing Saegertown to build leads of 14-10, 16-12 and 17-13.
The Devils did work back and tied it up three times, eventually taking a 22-21 lead on a block by Jennae Shinsky. Cambridge wound up winning the set 25-22 and cruised in Game 2 to a 25-16 win to take the two-game advantage.
Saegertown didn’t go down without a fight, though. Game 3 belonged to the Panthers thanks to clutch performances by Mackensie Garris and Lauren Posego.
Posego continued her stellar play in Game 4 and gave the Panthers a 16-15 advantage with her second kill of the game (she also had a block).
“She came alive there,” Shoop said. “That was key for us having that offensive threat at the net.”
But like Game 1, the Blue Devils managed to pull it together in the end, led by Shinsky, to take a 25-18 win.
“They never give up,” Cambridge Springs coach John Turner said. “That is one thing I love about this team. It doesn’t matter. Just like Maplewood, we were down 21-24 and won. They’re not going to quit.”
“It’s a team effort,” Wolfrom added. “For sure. We couldn’t do it without everyone doing their jobs and pitching in.”
Wolfrom had a pretty big hand in the Blue Devils’ win. She finished with 15 kills. Shinsky had the match of the night, tallying 21 kills and 10 blocks.
Karissa Welker had six kills and Mackayla Kurt five kills. Kayla Parkin tallied 15 service points and Mackenzie Turner set it up with 39 assists.
Tori Eckart had nine service points, five kills and three blocks for the Panthers. Olivia Burger also had five kills, while Garris had six. Maile Chang dished out 12 assists. Sarah Allen and Lexi Palmer had nine digs each.
Posego’s big night finished with five kills and four blocks.