By Lisa Byers
Crawford County has produced some outstanding Class A girls volleyball teams throughout the years. But in District 10, only one team gets the opportunity to move on and represent the area in the PIAA state tournament.
That meant a terrific season by either Cochranton or Cambridge Springs, both of which have been ranked among the best in the state in Class A by the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association, had to come to an end Saturday afternoon.
And it was evident in Game 1 of the District 10 Class A championship match at Meadville Area Senior High’s House of Thrills that neither Cochranton or Cambridge Springs wanted it to be them. But when all was said and done, it was Cochranton left hoisting the trophy and earning the district’s lone ticket to the state tournament.
The Cardinals, ranked No. 6 in the state, captured their sixth District 10 title yesterday with a 25-19, 25-14, 25-11 win over the Blue Devils. The victory finished off an impressive district playoff run by the Cardinals that included one of their best overall efforts of the season on Thursday in a sweep of rival Maplewood in the District 10 semifinals.
“Marci (Malliard) and Laurie (McClain) had us working on a lot of different things in practice this week,” Cochranton senior middle hitter Kendell Dickson said. “We worked on what works against Maplewood, what works against Cambridge Springs and that helped a lot.”
Cambridge Springs and Cochranton had already tangled in one of the season’s most exciting regular season dual matches a few months back and looked as though they might treat fans to a sequel Saturday afternoon.
Both teams refused to let the ball hit the ground in Game 1, leading to a number of lengthy rallies that were met by a lot of oohs and awes from the crowd and a back and forth battle. The battle was eventually won by the Cards.
Cambridge Springs didn’t let the Cardinals take control, though, and, in fact, trailed by just one (9-8) midway through the second set thanks to back-to-back aces from Paige Wolfrom. But then thing started to unravel.
“There were a couple calls here and there, right or wrong,” Cambridge Springs coach John Turner said. “I was issued a yellow card.
“I should know enough to stay calm. Say a word and that’s it. I went a little bit overboard. I figured one or two things were going to happen. It was going to fire the girls up or I get a yellow card and get sat down and then they can’t hear me well.”
It went the latter way. And Cochranton continued to get hotter and hotter as the match rolled on.
“We weren’t going to get this chance again,” Cochranton senior outside hitter Madison Bernarding said. “We just wanted to come out here and have us much fun as we could and play our hearts out.”
“I’m happy for them,” Cochranton coach Marci Malliard said. “They worked hard. We make them work hard and they deserve this.”
The Cardinals (16-0) advance to the first round of the PIAA state tournament. They will play WPIAL third seed Neshannock on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Meadville High School.
Cambridge Springs ends its season at 15-4.
“It was an awesome year,” Turner said. “And for my first year of coaching … I couldn’t ask for anything more. From Day 1, they knew they were going to have to work hard and play hard and they did.”