By Lisa Byers
YORK — A year after missing the state playoffs for the first time since 1999, Maplewood made sure to make its return a memorable one.
The Tigers beat arch rival and fellow Region 6 champion Titusville, 25-17, 25-23, 22-25, 25-18, on Saturday to capture the PIAA state championship at Central York High School. The title is Maplewood’s fourth overall and third since 1992.
The Tigers also won titles in 1985 and ‘95.
“This is amazing,” Wood senior outside hitter Heidi Young said. “It was nice to beat (Titusville) at districts. Then we won regionals and it was like, ‘We can actually go to states and do something.’
“Before I was just kind of young and it was just nice to go to states. This year, I was like, ‘We can actually break down the door this year.’ And we did.”
Did they ever.
The Tigers set the tone early against the Rockets, taking advantage of the outstanding play of sophomore middle hitter Anna McCurdy. McCurdy had six blocks in the first game, including back-to-back stuffs that gave Maplewood a 13-9 lead in Game 1.
Titusville tied it up at 14-all, but failed to pick up ground with star and potential all-state middle hitter Stef Lorey on the bench with an injury. Maplewood went on to win the game, 25-17.
“That set the tone for the whole match,” said Wood coach Sheila Bancroft, who has coached the Tigers to their last three state crowns. “We needed to block. (McCurdy) came out and had it in her eyes in the beginning that she was going to own the middle. And she did.
“Stef Lorey got hot as the game went on, but we controlled the net. We just played great volleyball. I don’t even know what else to say — blocking, defense, everything from top to bottom.”
Titusville jumped back into the match with a 25-22 win in the third game with Lorey back in the rotation. Lorey finished the match with nine kills, five of which came in the following two games. The effort in Game 3, however, wasn’t enough.
Maplewood went on to win the fourth game, 25-18.
“They’re a great team,” Titusville coach Debbie Carr said. “I won’t take anything away from them. But when I have a 5-foot-2 girl going in to take Stef’s place, I think it made a difference in the match.”
The Rockets finished the season at 22-3 after making the program’s first-ever championship final appearance in girls volleyball. It marked the second straight year Titusville finished among the top four Class AA teams in the state.
“I’m happy with our season,” Carr said. “I’m very proud of these girls.”
Maplewood’s state title was the school’s first since 2002, when Matt Wilcox took home gold in wrestling. It is also the sixth total in volleyball — boys and girls. The boys won the last one in 2000.
“We were talking about it before and how at school we have pictures of everyone who went to states from our school,” senior outside hitter Abby Mailliard said. “We wanted our pictures in that case. Everyone pulled through. It’s just awesome.”
For Bancroft, this gold medal was particularly special, because she had the opportunity to share it with her daughter, Amanda, who concluded her high school career — along with Young and Mailliard — with the win.
“On a personal note, it is very special,” coach Bancroft said. “One of my goals was to have my daughters there in the end. She played outstanding volleyball. She did through the whole tournament. I had a lot of compliments on her.”
Amanda was also thankful for the opportunity.
“It was awesome,” she said. “It’s an awesome way to end the year.”
Angela Groshner had a monstrous afternoon for the Tigers, finishing with a 17-point, 17-dig, 18-kill triple-double versus the Rockets. Megan Groshner had 25 digs. McCurdy finished with 11 kills and seven blocks.
Danielle Brunot added 13 kills. Bancroft had 10 service points and 38 assists.
For the Rockets, Brooke Orris and Melissa Bromley had six and eight kills, respectively. Drew Barnhart had six kills as well.
The Tigers reached the championship match with an impressive 27-25, 25-21, 25-17 win over District 3 runner-up Delone Catholic. The Rockets, meanwhile, beat Huntingdon (21-25, 25-23, 25-21, 25-21) in the semifinals.
Lisa Byers can be reached at 724-6370 ext. 277 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Lisa Byers