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April 16, 2014

Panthers stay unbeaten with win over Blue Devils

SAEGERTOWN — Saegertown’s run to the District 10 boys volleyball championship a year ago was anything but easy.

Needless to say, the Panthers have a little experience when it comes to dealing with tribulations. The Panthers put that experience to good use on Wednesday night in a Region 1 showdown.

Working with a lineup it had practiced with for roughly a half hour the night before, Saegertown rallied together to beat rival Cambridge Springs 25-17, 20-25, 25-21, 25-22.

The Panthers, ranked No. 9 in the state in Class AA by the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association, improved to 5-0 overall and 2-0 in Region 1. Cambridge Springs fell to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the region.

“We played well,” Saegertown coach Justin Johnson said. “We were inconsistent at times, but that’s to be expected.”

The Panthers were without Peter Mattocks and Joey Reynolds. Mattocks was out of town. Reynolds is out for the season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in the Panthers’ win over Meadville on Monday.

The Panthers’ new rotation included nine players with Trevor Pavlik and Brad Amy sharing setting duties, Luke Smith stepping in the play outside hitter and a combination of guys, including Alex and Brendon Barclay and Ryan Kirdahy, stepping up to fill the void at middle hitter.

“I knew we could still play well in that lineup,” Johnson said. “The guys we brought in off the bench can play. They can play the game. They know where they’re supposed to be. They know what they’re supposed to do.

“So I wasn’t worried about that. They stepped up and did a nice job. I was happy about that.”

Some of the pressure was lifted off of those players following a relatively easy 25-17 win in the opening set for the Panthers. But in the second game and early into the third set, the Blue Devils had all the momentum and Saegertown needed to find a way to pull together.

Cambridge Springs snagged that momentum doing what it does best: blocking.

The Panthers struggled to get anything going offensively in the second set due to the wall Cambridge Springs put up at the net led by middle blocker Devin Walker. The Blue Devils, meanwhile, found the holes.

Alex Mailliard had five of his 10 kills and Walker four of his nine kills in the second set alone, leading the Devils to the 25-20 win to even the match at a set apiece.

Cambridge carried the momentum into Game 3, jumping out to a 5-1 lead. But that’s when the Blue Devils’ Achilles’ heel showed its hand.

“The first game (Saegertown) came out, they were fired up. They were hitting balls at us and our timing on the block was off,” Cambridge Springs coach Rick Welker said. “We just couldn’t stop them. That’s what Saegertown will do.

“They get excited. They play with a lot of emotion. They took it to us the first game.

“We finally settled down after that. We got our block going for us. We were getting up and stopping the ball and getting some nice kills. When we play our game we can be a really good team. We just make too many unforced errors.”

It really proved costly in the fourth set.

Saegertown, again, came out on fire and had an 8-2 lead. The Blue Devils worked back and cut that deficit to two (16-14), but a net violation and an attack error put the Panthers back up by four (18-14).

Cambridge climbed back to within two six more times. Tyler Fiely closed the gap at 23-21 with a kill. But the Devils failed to communicate on the next sideout and allowed a pass to drop between two players to put the Panthers at game point (24-21).

Austin Porter gave the Devils life with a kill (24-22). A service error ended the game and sealed the match win for the Panthers.

“In that last game, we probably had five or six unforced errors,” Welker said. “That’s just free points that you’re giving another team. Against a good team like Saegertown you can’t do that.”

Alex Barclay led the Panthers with 20 kills. Brendon Barclay added 13 kills, while Brendon Paden added eight. Pavlik dished out 23 assists and Amy 22. Morgan Schenberg had 12 digs.

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