The main objective at the PIAA state girls volleyball championships is to come away with a gold medal draped around your neck.

And while that is certainly the objective for each of the four District 10 teams participating in this year’s tournament, it isn’t the only one — at least for Maplewood that is.

The Tigers enter the state tournament today in search of not only their fourth state championship, but a remarkable end to an already sensational season and the careers of Amanda Bancroft, Heidi Young and Abby Mailliard, as well.

“We’re approaching this as an end to an unbelievable season,” Wood coach Sheila Bancroft said. “It also marks the end of the terrific careers of three seniors and marks the beginning to the careers of some outstanding underclassmen.

“It will be nothing but good for these underclassmen. We’re very excited.”

Of course, there is the possibility the Tigers could reach all of its objectives, including the one that ends with the presentation of a rather large trophy. The first step in reaching that particular goal begins today with the quarterfinal round of pool play.

Maplewood will play in Pool A alongside Schuylkill Valley, Merion Mercy and Huntingdon. Huntingdon is the 2003 Class AA state champion, while Merion Mercy won the title in 2001.

“Reputation-wise, Merion Mercy and Huntingdon have both been good,” Bancroft said. “We saw Huntingdon early in the season at a tournament, but didn’t have the opportunity to play them. They are very good fundamentally and have good ball handling skills.

“Schuylkill Valley beat Brandywine Heights (in the District 3 semifinals) in five games to knock them out. Brandywine is a very respectable program. They usually give us problems and Schuylkill knocked them out.

“Everyone is good when you get down here. You have to be playing your best ball at that time.”

A little fan support doesn’t hurt either. And according to Bancroft, the Tigers’ fan following that has accompanied the team all season long and served as a seventh player throughout the playoffs, should be well represented at York.

“We do have a following,” Bancroft said of the fans that call themselves the “Woodshed.” “It would have been nice to have states at Robert Morris (University) with the following we have this year. The kids wanted to ride the bus with us, but we couldn’t fit them all. But we do have a lot of parents coming down that are bringing loads of kids with them.”

The Tigers enter the tournament as the top remaining Class AA team in the state, according to the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association’s Top 20 rankings. Maplewood is ranked eighth. Hopewell, which was knocked out by Titusville at regionals on Tuesday, is ranked fourth.

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