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November 11, 2012

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL: Tigers’ playoff run halted by Clarion

November 11, 2012 7:00 a.m. SHARPSVILLE — Clarion and Maplewood have owned two of the best girls volleyball teams in the state over the last couple of years.

But on Saturday afternoon only one could earn the opportunity to continue its quest for state gold. And it was apparent from the start that neither team was going to give up that chance without a fight.

Clarion won that fight in the end, handing Maplewood a 26-24, 22-25, 25-23, 25-21 loss in the PIAA Class A quarterfinals at Sharpsville High School.

The Tigers’ season, which included the Region 2 championship and their first District 10 title since 2008, comes to an end with the loss. Maplewood finishes with an 18-1 record.

Clarion advances to the state semifinals for the third straight year. The Bobcats, ranked No. 1 in the state by the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association, will face second-ranked Greensburg Central Catholic on Tuesday at a site and time to be determined.

“If I had Ashley (Myers) ... At the beginning of the season I would have said I believed we could be here,” Maplewood coach Sheila Bancroft said. “But when you take that kind of player off your team, no I didn’t think we would even be here.

“They far exceeded my expectations. And I think their’s too.”

Clarion and Maplewood’s quarterfinal matchup was awfully similar to their state semifinal match back in 2010. The Bobcats, like yesterday, won that match in four heavily contested sets, 25-23, 17-25, 25-20, 25-22.

The Tigers simply failed to quit. And they did it again yesterday. Clarion did likewise, leaving fans greatly entertained.

Maplewood took a 6-1 lead in the opening set. Clarion responded with a 6-2 run though to tie it at 7-7 and eventually took a 16-12 advantage.

The Tigers made a run with setter Jaricka Simmerman on serve and tied it up at 18-18.

The score was knotted six more times. Clarion took the final lead on a tip by Mattison Thornton an clinched the 26-24 win on an ace by Ellie Burns.

“That is a very improved Maplewood team from the time we saw them at our tournament,” Clarion coach Shari Campbell said. “(Early in the season) their senior outside hitter had gone down with an ACL tear. And I knew Sheila would put something together and recover from that, but they’ve gone a very good job.

“They are a very good defensive team and a very good passing team.”

Defense, passing and clutch serving helped the Tigers even up the match in the second set, which was just as exciting as the first.

Neither team led by more than four points in the set. That advantage came at 24-20 on an ace by Wood sophomore Chelsey Hasbrouck.

Game 3 was much the same. This time, though, it was Clarion hanging on.

The Bobcats used momentum from that win to jump out to a 7-1 lead in the fourth set. As it did all day long, though, Maplewood battled back, eventually tying it up at 17-17 following back-to-back aces by Hasbrouck. The Tigers just couldn’t finish it in the end.

“No quit,” Bancroft said. “They believed they could win it and they could have. It’s a game of inches. A point here and point there. We just had too many errors at key times.”

Madalyn Nicols led the Tigers with 18 kills and 15 digs. Kendra Turner had 11 kills. Emily Merritt and Taylor Smith had 30 and 10 digs, respectively. Simmerman dished out 38 assists to go along with nine digs. Jessa Covine had eight kills.

The Tigers will lose Turner, Laura Kirk, Merritt, Smith, Liz Miller an Ashley Myers, who had season ending knee surgery early in the season.

For Clarion, Morgan Bailey had 14 kills. Burns had 29 digs.

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