By Lisa Byers
Tammy Webber was hopeful Meadville would learn a valuable lesson from its performance on Wednesday night, which had the Lady Bulldogs fighting for their lives in the District 10 Class AA girls volleyball quarterfinals.
That message was apparently well-received.
One night after surviving elimination against Harbor Creek in a thrilling five-set match, Meadville came together for one of its most balanced outings of the season to earn a spot in Saturday’s District 10 Class AA championship game alongside fourth-ranked Fort LeBoeuf.
The Lady Bulldogs punched their ticket, which also earns them an automatic berth to the PIAA state playoffs, on Thursday night with a 25-20, 25-15, 25-21 win over rival Conneaut at the House of Thrills.
“(Wednesday night) we didn’t play too well,” said Meadville sophomore setter Katie Newman. “(Last night) we knew we had to come and we had to play our best. We had to do what we do.
“(Wednesday) we got inside our own heads. (Last night) we played up to our potential.”
Last night’s Class AA semifinal drew a standing room only crowd at MASH’s House of Thrills, a good majority of which were dressed in blue and gray or black and red.
Meadville went into the match looking to avenge Conneaut’s three-set win back on Oct. 11, a win that earned the Eagles a share of the Region 4 championship.
Well, Meadville got the revenge it was looking for. And the ’Dogs did so behind the arms of Leah Jones and Monica Jackson.
Through the first two sets, Jones and Jackson had a combined 20 kills. They finished the match with 29. It was all set up by precise passing, solid defense and — Meadville’s bread and butter — great serves. Some of these things the Bulldogs struggled to do on Wednesday.
“I told the girls, I said, ‘You must really like to frustrate your coaches, your parents and your fans,’” Webber said. “Because that (last night’s effort) is how they are capable of playing.
“Monica and Leah carried the load, but people you didn’t expect to step up, stepped up (last night).”
Conneaut did have the lead in Game 1. A 5-0 run by Meadville, though, erased that lead and put the Bulldogs in the driver’s seat. In Game 2, the Eagles never got it going.
The Eagles did put up quite a fight in the third set. They took a 16-13 lead on a textbook kill by Challen Litwiler that had the crowd in awe. Meadville, which was without middle hitter Marcadi McCoy for much of the third set due to an ankle injury, rallied back to pull to within one (17-16) and eventually took a 21-20 lead on an ace by Jones.
Jones sealed the win with her 15th kill of the match.
“We fought to the end,” Conneaut coach Tim Schleicher said. “That’s all we ask. Come out and play tough to the end. Whatever the outcome is we expect them to play a certain way and we want to play tough every point.
“I thought we did. Meadville was the better team (last night). They played outstanding.”
The loss marks the end to Conneaut’s inaugural season.
“The first thing I told them after the match was, ‘It’s going to hurt. It’s going to hurt bad right now, but I want you to, in time, look back and think about where we were in June,’” Schleicher said. “We didn’t even know each other. I told them to keep their heads up and be proud of what they accomplished because I thought they did a good job.”
Fort LeBoeuf earned a spot in the District 10 Class AA title match with a 25-11, 25-20, 25-22 win over Slippery Rock. Meadville split with Fort LeBoeuf earlier this season on its way to winning the Maplewood Tournament.
The championship match is slated to start at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Meadville Area High School.
Tigers prevail in Class A
For the first time ever, the District 10 Class A championship match will include a team from outside of Crawford County. But for the fourth year in a row a team will have to get past Maplewood to clinch the title.
Maplewood earned its fourth straight appearance in the District 10 Class A championship match with a 25-19, 25-23, 25-14 win over Saegertown.
The Tigers, ranked seventh in the state in Class A by the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association, will face third-ranked Sharpsville in the championship match on Saturday at noon at Meadville.
The Blue Darlings advanced to the finals with a 25-18, 25-14, 25-23 win over Cochranton. They will look to end Crawford County’s dominance in District 10 Class A volleyball. Crawford County has won every Class A crown since the PIAA went to three classifications in 2000.
“We have our work cut out for us,” Maplewood coach Sheila Bancroft said. “We definitely have to play our A-plus game to beat them and we know that. We’re going to leave everything out on the floor and it’s whoever plays their best ball on Saturday.
“But I know that I’m going to walk away if we do lose knowing that we did not lose to a bad team. When I look player to player, I do feel like we are the underdog.”
Sharpsville is solid and proved that to Cochranton. The Cardinals did make things interesting against the Blue Darlings in the third set, though. Sharpsville was at game-point up 24-21. Cochranton pulled to within one (24-23) on an ace by Sam Kinter. But that is as close as the Cards got.
“They have a lot of firepower,” Cochranton coach Marci Malliard said of Sharpsville. “They came ready to play. I think we came ready to play, we just didn’t get it done. You’ll have those nights. They battled back in the end and that’s what you want to see.
“We didn’t want to walk out of the gym with the score 25-11. We had heart and that’s what’s important.”
Saegertown, too, put up quite a fight against Maplewood answering a plea by head coach Brian Shoop, who told his players not to walk out of the gym last night saying, “I wish I would have.”
“I’m happy,” Shoop said. “I thought we left it on the floor … Overall I’m happy with the season.”
Statistically, Madalyn Nicols had 17 kills and 19 digs to lead the Tigers. Emily Merritt added 13 digs and Jaricka Simmerman dished out 37 assists.
For Saegertown, Courtney Lilly had eight kills and 11 digs. Rachel DiBartolomeo had 17 assists and McKenna Morian eight digs.