By Drew Karpen
It took them until the final day of the regular season, but the Cochranton boys volleyball team now knows where they stand for next week’s Class AA District 10 playoffs.
The Cardinals clinched the No. 2 seed after a thrilling 25-18, 25-19, 23-25, 25-14 win over Maplewood on Thursday night in Region 1 action at Cochranton High School.
“It is very important,” Cochranton coach Brad Custead said. “You don’t want to be in that third or fourth spot because you are playing someone who is close and equal in competition to you. Not that the number two spot is going to have an easy road. We have to come out and play like we did (tonight). We have to play tough the whole entire time. We can’t play down to our opponent.”
Going into Thursday’s contest, the Cardinals, Tigers and Saegertown were all tied for second in the region out of the Class AA teams.
Saegertown was a four-set winner over Cambridge Springs on Thursday, putting them as the No. 3 seed after losing the head-to-head match with the Cardinals earlier in the season.
Maplewood will be seeded fourth in the playoffs.
The Cardinals (8-4, 6-3 Region 1) got off to a better start in the first set, jumping out to a 17-9 lead before the Tigers (5-6, 5-4) were forced to call a timeout. Following the timeout, the Tigers made a little run of their own, scoring five unanswered points to cut the deficit to 20-15.
But their miscues at the net and hitting errors continued as the Cardinals put the first set away on a kill by Alex Custead.
“I don’t know if it was miscommunication or just a lack of offense,” Maplewood coach Sheila Bancroft said. “We need to have more offense. We had three guys hit in the negatives. We are just not putting the ball away. That’s the bottom line. We are just getting beat at the net.”
Maplewood got out to a fast start in the second set, but just when it seemed like they were getting some momentum, there was a stoppage in play.
The Tigers went up 4-1 but the Cardinals crawled back to tie it before being docked a point for serving out of order.
But the call wasn’t noticed until a few points after the fact, forcing a several minute delay by the refs to sort out the score. Once the teams got back on the court, both teams stayed neck-and-neck until the 20-point mark.
With a 21-19 lead, the Cardinals rattled off four straight points to take the set.
Down to their final set, Maplewood didn’t go down without a fight. The team’s played evenly throughout the set, with no team recording a lead more than three points.
Down 23-21, the Cardinals got back-to-back kills from Chad Eisenhooth and Logan Herzberger to tie the game. However, the Tigers recorded the final two points of the set on a hitting error by Herzberger and then senior Ethan Moody stuffed Herzberger at the net to extend the match.
The loss in set three didn’t sit well with Cochranton and it showed in the final set.
“I told the kids we have to go out here and play tough,” Custead said. “That was a big game that Maplewood just won. They have a lot of momentum. We have to go out there and knock the momentum off. They responded well. They got them down and kept them down.”
That they did with a convincing 25-14 win.
For Maplewood, Josh Lake led the offense with 10 kills. Moody chipped in with seven. Justin Dahl had a team-high 23 assists and Zak Dennis led the team with 14 digs.
Herzberger recorded a 10-kill, 15-dig double-double for the Cardinals. Josh Vanderhoof also reached double figures with 12 kills. Chad Eisenhooth has nine kills and nine blocks on the night and Nate Wigton had a game-high 38 assists.
Coach Custead knows a performance like this can go a long way in the playoffs.
“This is a very good confidence booster,” Custead said. “We didn’t play very good the other night against Cambridge Springs. I was curious to see how the kids were going to respond (tonight) and they responded very well. That was probably the best I have seen them play all year or pretty darn close to it. It is a good win to go into districts and we will see how it goes form there.”