By Lisa Byers
The Cochranton girls volleyball team’s sensational season could end with the ultimate prize in tow: A state championship.
The Lady Cardinals punched their ticket to the PIAA Class A state championship match and eliminated the No.1 ranked team in the state in the process with a 25-18, 25-21, 25-21 win over Bishop Carroll in the semifinals on Tuesday at DuBois Area Senior High School.
The Cardinals improved to 19-0 on the year. They will face Marian Catholic at 11 a.m. Saturday at Central York High School for the state title. Cochranton is seeking its second title in program history and the school’s third overall.
“It’s so exciting,” Cochranton junior setter Morghan Egli said. "We’ve worked so hard and fought through tough times, like when we didn't have Madi (Bernarding).
“To know that we got here is just so exciting.”
The Cardinals picked up win No. 19 as they have several others throughout the year. They were patient. They were determined. And they were led by a senior middle hitter who is making quite the name for herself this season in Kendell Dickson.
Once again, it was a recipe for success.
“We’ve been here too many times that we’re now used to it,” Cochranton coach Marci Malliard said. “It’s been good practice but it is nerve-wracking.”
Cochranton trailed in all three games and was forced to rally back by as many as four points.
In Game 1, Bishop Carroll, ranked No. 1 in the state in the latest Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association Top 10 poll, led 10-6 as the Cardinals struggled for consistency.
A kill error by the Huskies, though, ignited an 11-0 run by the Cardinals that included three kills and a block by Dickson and six Bishop Carroll hitting errors. The Cardinals were in control, leading 17-10.
Game 2 was much the same. Bishop Carroll, again, jumped out to a decent lead. And, again, it was Dickson coming through. Dickson had four kills and two blocks to pull Cochranton ahead 14-13.
The Cards didn't trail again in that set.
In the clincher, Bishop Carroll took the early lead. But it didn't last as the Cardinals rolled to the win.
“I think it was their pace of the game,” BC coach Joe Skura said. “It wasn't the same pace of game we are used to playing.”
The difference overall was serve-receive. While the Cardinals made a few more errors than Malliard would like, they kept BC on its toes and the Huskies struggled to get clean passes to the net.
“I think we served well enough that it kept them out of their game,” Malliard said.
And then there was Dickson.
Dickson finished with 20 kills and five blocks. Also for the Cards, Kassidy Dickson had seven kills. Egli finished with four kills and two blocks for the championship-bound Cardinals.
“I’m excited for them,” Malliard said. “We’ll see what we can do there.”
Cochranton, ranked No. 2, has already eliminated the defending state champion and No. 1 ranked team in the state.
“I’m just blessed to be going to Saturday,” Cochranton senior Madi Bernarding said. “We’ll just go there and see what happens.”