By Pete Chiodo
OIL CITY —
The thing that often separates a merely good team from a great team is how that team deals with a setback.
A perfect example of this was displayed by the Cochranton girls volleyball team as it faced defending state champion Clarion in the PIAA Class A quarterfinals on Saturday at Oil City High School.
Cochranton had won Game 1 handily, 25-11. Game 2 was a much tighter, back-and-forth affair. But Cochranton managed to get the upper hand, taking game point at 24-21.
A serve into the net, however, gave the ball back to Clarion. And the Bobcats won the next four straight points to claim the second set 26-24.
The game had slipped through the fingers of the Lady Cardinals. Would the match slip away as well? The Redbirds needed an answer.
How’s this for an answer?
The Cards opened Game 3 with a resounding 13-point run. That’s 13 consecutive points over the No. 2-ranked Class A team in the state (according to the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association) and, again, the defending Class A state champ.
Cochranton went on to dominate that set 25-8. And while Clarion put up a good fight in the fourth game, Cochranton closed it out 25-23 to evict the Bobcats from the state bracket and move on to the semifinals.
That’s how great teams handle things.
“It’s indescribable,” said Cochranton libero Sam Kinter. “We wanted to play (Clarion) because we wanted to play the state champions. It couldn’t be any better. We played them well. And this is exactly what we wanted.”
Next up for Cochranton is District 6 champion Bishop Carroll, which swept Elk County Catholic yesterday. The match will be held Tuesday at 7 p.m. at DuBois High School.
“It’s been awhile since we’ve been to this point,” said Cochranton head coach Marci Malliard, who guided the program to a Class A state title in 2004. “They just need to have fun with it now and play their hearts out.”
Kinter was kicking herself after that Game 2 slip-up. It was her serve that went into the net at game point.
“I’ve struggled throughout the season with serving,” said Kinter. “For that to happen right then made me so mad.”
Granted this was just one of three service errors recorded by Cochranton all day. But it was a big one.
“We served well,” said Malliard. “I felt like that’s one thing we did very well. And we knew we needed to serve well. (Clarion) has an offense and we needed to keep them out of their offense.”
Kinter, however, wasn’t about to make that her lone contribution yesterday. And she ended up playing a marvelous game on defense after that, digging up a number of hard shots from Clarion’s roster of tough hitters, like Kyla Miles, Bekah Nesbitt and Jenn Ochs.
“You’ve got to come back from it,” said Kinter. “I got the opportunity to serve again in the fourth game and I didn’t serve out, so that was good.”
The missed serve in the second, she said, “lit a fire” under her
Defense played a huge role in that 13-point run. The Cards just wouldn’t give up on any ball on their side of the net.
Defense, in fact, played a huge role all match. Actually, it’s been Cochranton’s thing all season long.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the Cards have their its fair share of offensive weaponry either. And they each stepped up on Saturday.
Kendall Dickson, for instance, led the team with 19 kills. Kassidy Dickson had 14 kills and was the team’s top server with five aces. She was the one behind the baseline when the Cards enjoyed their 13-point run.
“It was really good,” Kassidy said. “(The serves) were floating like crazy.”
Morghan Egli, along with leading the team in assists, added eight kills. And Madison Bernarding chipped in with six kills.
“I knew we were going to go more than three games, but I had a good feeling that we were going to come out on top,” said Kassidy Dickson.