By Pete Chiodo
What is the Bishop Carroll girls volleyball team like?
Cochranton head coach Marci Malliard doesn’t know.
“No, haven’t seen them at all,” she said.
Does it matter? At this point, not really. The most important feature of the Bishop Carroll Huskies is well known by everybody, and that’s the fact that they are in the state semifinals. That’s very telling.
“Oh yeah, they’re good enough to be here, so, yes, they’re going to be good,” Malliard said.
The same can easily be said about Malliard’s Cardinals as well. They are still alive and, yes, they are very good. And today at 7 p.m. they will be putting it all on the line against Bishop Carroll in a PIAA Class A semifinal match at DuBois High School.
Bishop Carroll, the District 6 champion, advanced with a 25-18, 25-19, 25-17 victory over District 9 runner-up Elk County Catholic this past Saturday.
The Huskies were led by a pair of strong senior middle hitters in Sarah Gomish and Hayley Holsberger who recorded 17 kills apiece.
The Huskies enter with a record of 22-1, their lone loss coming in five games against another state semifinalist, Bishop Guilfoyle. Bishop Carroll was bumped up to No. 1 in the latest rankings by the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association.
Cochranton’s status in the PVCA poll has also improved. The Cardinals (18-0) are now No. 2 (up from fourth) in the Class A rankings. They earned that position after knocking off the former No. 2 Clarion in Saturday’s quarterfinal round.
Clarion was the defending state champion of Class A. Cochranton ended the team’s repeat bid with an occasionally-dominant 25-11, 24-26, 25-8, 25-23 win over the Bobcats.
The Bobcats did provide Cochranton with a nice tussle in games 2 and 4. Cochranton let Clarion off the hook in Game 2, failing to finish even though the Cards led 24-21.
However, the Cardinals responded in Game 3 by opening up with a commanding 13-0 lead.
Clarion also had leads over Cochranton in Game 4. But the Cardinals displayed some of their trademark mental toughness to battle back and finish off the match.
About that team toughness, Malliard said, “We’re getting better at that every match. Every time we’ve been tested we are handling it the right way and just becoming tough. Some of them are like that anyway, and others have gotten better at that.”
Just as it’s known that you’ve got to be good to make the state semifinals, it’s also know that your team is in for a challenge once it’s there.
So far, though, Cochranton has showed that it can handle a challenge.
“We’ve actually put ourselves in that spot more than I care too,” Malliard said. “But it’s been working to our advantage. They have gotten tough when it gets to that.”
And while Cochranton will have quite a road trip to DuBois, Malliard still expects the Cochranton faithful to be in force.
“They are actually taking a fan bus,” said Malliard. “We’ve had a great following and that really helps the girls to know that the community is supporting them.”