By Lisa Byers
Cochranton has been dominant in Region 2 girls volleyball this season.
Entering Tuesday’s Region 2 showdown with Saegertown, the Cardinals hadn’t lost a single match in dual match play. And earlier in the day, the Cards were tabbed the No. 3-ranked team in the state in Class A by the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches’ Associat-ion.
How could things get any better for the Lady Cardinals? How about the return of second team all-region outside hitter Madison Bernarding?
Bernarding, out of commission since suffering a Lisfranc fracture during the District 10 Class A girls basketball championship game on March 3, made her season debut last night.
The senior tallied six kills and a team-best 15 digs as the Cardinals beat the Panthers 25-19, 25-13, 26-24 to maintain their two-game lead atop the Region 2 standings.
The Cardinals, now in the midst of a 14-set winning streak, improved to 9-0 overall and in region play. Saegertown, meanwhile, fell out of a three-way tie for second place in Region 2. The Panthers are 6-3 overall and in the region and tied with Maplewood for third place.
“I just wanted to support them,” Bernarding said. “Everyone was doing what they had to do and they did such a great job. I was so happy for all of them and everything they did. I am just glad I get to share a part of it now.”
It was a long road back for Bernarding, who underwent two surgeries, one to insert hardware and another to remove hardware used to repair a torn tendon in the arch of her foot, also known as a Lisfranc fracture.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through,” she said. “It was a long time.”
It was expected to be even longer. Bernarding was initially told she wouldn’t be released until November. But the three-sport athlete was diligent and beat the odds.
“It’s very nice to have her back on the floor,” Cochranton coach Marci Malliard said. “She’s been practicing. She’s just been waiting for that official, ‘You can get out there and play now.’”
Bernarding filled the spot of Tristan Knauff, who was out with an illness. Where she will fit in the mix upon Knauff’s return is unknown and that is something Bernarding fully understands.
“I knew I was going to have to earn my position all over again,” Bernarding said. “I knew I was going to have to work and I’m still going to work at it.”
For now, Bernarding is just going to enjoy the Cardinals’ eighth sweep of the season.
Saegertown nearly sent the match to at least a fourth set. Cochranton sat at game-point, leading 24-20 when the Panthers went on a run.
Lexi Palmer ignited the run with an ace. Tori Eckart kept the rally going with a kill. The Cards then committed back-to-back errors at the net, the last of which was a net violation against Kendell Dickson that tied the score at 24-24.
Dickson relieved her frustration on the next play with a kill to put the Cardinals ahead 25-24 and finished it off with her 18th kill of the match to complete the sweep.
“We played tentative at the onset,” Saegertown coach Brian Shoop said. “We just couldn’t get anything going in that first game … We improved as the match went on, but it was too late.”
Dickson led the Cardinals with 18 kills. Kassidy Dickson chipped in with eight kills and Morghan Egli added 29 assists.
For the Panthers, Maile Chang had 12 assists. Eckart finished with nine kills, while Mackensie Garris added 11 digs and Sarah Allen eight digs.