Cochranton put itself in quite a precarious situation last season when a loss to Saegertown pit the Cardinals against rival Maplewood in the District 10 Class A semifinals.

The Cards wound up losing to the Tigers in a classic ending their chance at a record-tying fifth straight District 10 title and a trip to the PIAA state playoffs.

Goal No. 1 for head coach Marci Malliard and Co. this year was to not let that happen again. But nothing the Cardinals did during Wednesday’s District 10 Class A quarterfinals at Meadville High School’s House of Thrills could control what Maplewood did on the other side of the bracket. And for a while, it looked like the Tigers might spoil plans.

But the Tigers wound up pulling off the most thrilling win of the tournament yesterday, downing unbeaten Sharpsville, 26-28, 25-20, 25-15, in the evening’s final match to win Pool A, prolonging a meeting with the Cardinals for at least another round.

Maplewood also defeated Mercer, 25-11, 25-11, to finish a perfect 2-0 in its pool. Cochranton went 2-0 in Pool B with wins over Youngsville (25-7, 25-22) and Jamestown (25-13, 25-23).

“I knew Sharpsville was going to give us a good match,” Maplewood coach Sheila Bancroft said. “And they did. They made us play. Fortunately, we had to play all year. That’s a key.

“Our region is tough, and night in and night out we had to play every night. We played from behind a lot of times and that was a benefit to us (last night).”

Sharpsville came into the tournament as the Region 1 champion with a record of 16-0 and opened with a relatively easy 25-8, 25-23 win over Region 1 foe Mercer. The Blue Devils couldn’t maintain that momentum, however, against the Tigers and fell behind early, trailing by as many as five.

But Sharpsville, looking to prove it can play with District 10’s elite like Cochranton and Maplewood, ranked seventh and 10th, respectively, in the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association’s latest state rankings, didn’t give up and eventually rallied back to tie the game at 24-all. It went on to win the game, 28-26, putting the Tigers’ backs against the wall.

Maplewood, though, led by Lindsay Hasbrouck and Nicole Brunot, rose to the challenge. Hasbrouck finished the Sharpsville match with 17 kills, while Brunot added 16. Aleah Mailliard chipped in with 26 digs and eight points, including three aces.

The real story for the Tigers, however, may have been the play of sophomores Olivia Graff and Emma Parker. Graff had 42 assists and four aces against the Blue Devils. Parker had nine kills after recording five in the win over Mercer.

“They stepped up very big,” Bancroft said. “Olivia got to some bad passes. And Emma, I switched her off to the right side where she has a tendancy to be more comfortable and it paid off. There was a stuff block and then two kills like boom, boom, boom. Those are big plays for a sophomore.

“They’ve matured a lot this season.” And were huge in taming the Blue Devils.

“I’mhappy with the way my girls played,” Sharpsville coach Scott Scurpa said. “We got in a little serve-receive rutt. We weren’t passing the ball. And instead of hitting at them, they were hitting at us.

“Maplewood is a great program. I’m just happy our girls can come up here and know they can compete with the teams up here.”

Sharpsville gets a shot to do it again on Saturday when it meets the Cardinals (16-0) in the semifinals at noon back at the House of Thrills.

The Cardinals had an interesting start to the tournament. Cochranton handled both of its opponents in the first game, but got into a battle with each in the second set.

Malliard said she thinks her team might have gotten a little too comfortable against the Eagles, but really got a test in its second game with the Muskies.

“We couldn’t put the ball to the floor (against Jamestown),” she said. “They played great defense. We passed well, we just couldn’t find the floor. Then you have those fluky things, those off plays that just happen and there you go.”

Jamestown went 0-2 during pool play — also falling to Youngsville, 25-14, 25-17 — and ended its season at 17-4. The Eagles (13-3) will meet Maplewood (13-3) in the semifinals on Saturday at noon.

The semifinal winners automatically advance to the PIAA tournament and will face each other at 2 p.m. for the District 10 title.

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