By Lisa Byers
Cochranton has played outstanding volleyball all season long, and it’s 15-0 record heading into Thursday night’s District 10 Class A semifinals is indicative of that.
But against rival Maplewood and with a spot in the District 10 title match on the line, the Lady Cardinals stepped up their game to a whole other level.
The Lady Cardinals executed in every facet last night on their way to a 25-10, 25-14, 25-8 win over the defending District 10 Class A champion Tigers at Meadville Area Senior High’s House of Thrills.
“They did come to play (last night),” Cochranton coach Marci Malliard said. “They finally listened to what we’ve been saying to them all year. They did some things we have been asking them to do.”
The Cardinals will play Region 2 rival Cambridge Springs in the District 10 Class A title match on Saturday at 1 p.m. back at the House of Thrills. The Blue Devils beat Region 1 champion West Middlesex 27-25, 25-19, 25-16 in the semifinals.
It is the 13th time the Class A final has featured two teams from Crawford County. Sharpsville is the only team outside of the county to play for a title. The Blue Devils lost to Maplewood in last year’s title tilt.
Art of domination
Earlier this season, Maplewood head coach Sheila Bancroft sat at Cochranton High School dumbfounded as her Lady Tigers fell behind the Cardinals 13-1 in the opening set of their Region 2 matchup.
That night, while the Cardinals played an excellent match, Maplewood struggled and made unforced error after unforced error that helped lead to a 25-10, 25-13, 25-23 loss. Last night was a little different.
“They are on fire,” Maplewood coach Sheila Bancroft said. “They have been playing really good ball. No excuses. They played extremely well (last night) and we didn’t give them much of a battle.”
The key for Cochranton was its passing game.
The Lady Cardinals passed with precision. That allowed each and every one of Cochranton’s offensive weapons to get involved. Kendell Dickson had the biggest impact for the Cardinals, especially early on.
Cochranton, in fact, jumped out to an 8-2 lead against the Tigers in the first set. Six of those points were scored by Dickson (one block, five kills).
Then it was Madison Bernarding and then Kassidy Dickson and so on and so forth.
“It all started with the passing and then the hitters just put it away,” Cochranton libero Sam Kinter said. “All aspects of the game were working for us. It was awesome.”
Classic Blue Devils
Cambridge Springs has had a habit of putting its fans on the edge of their seats this season. The Blue Devils on several occasions have worked themselves into large holes.
They did it again against the Ms. Reds last night in the District 10 Class A semifinals and were within just a point of dropping the opening set and being forced to play from behind. As the Devils have done all season long, though, they pulled it out.
Trailing 24-22 in Game 1, Cambridge Springs rallied back to tie it on a mishandled serve from Amanda White. West Middlesex did regain the lead (25-24), but Paige Wolfrom finished it off for the Blue Devils with back-to-back-to-back kills. Cambridge had little trouble from there.
“We’re happy that we peaked (last night) and that we showed up to play,” Cambridge Springs middle hitter Jennae Shinksy said.
“Sometimes teams do go on runs against us,” she continued. “But we just answer back and that’s what team is all about.”
Head coach John Turner didn’t doubt his team for a minute, and it was a credit to the Blue Devils’ team play.
“(Last night) was a total team effort,” he said. “Everybody was moving. I had a feeling it was going to be a good night just from the way practice went (Wednesday). It went well (Wednesday) and it showed (last night).”
Wolfrom led the Blue Devils with 17 kills. Shinsky added 10 kills and Mackayla Kurt added eight kills. Mackenzie Turner dished out 25 assists. White had 12 digs.