Cochranton’s run to its second straight Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class A state girls volleyball tournament has had few interruptions with the Cards winning all but 10 of their 64 games played.

That stellar run, however, will be put to a huge test on Friday during the quarterfinal round of pool play at the 32nd annual PIAA Girls Volleyball Championships being held at Central York High School.

In their pool, the Cards will run into 2004 state runner-up and District 6 champion Northern Cambria, District 11 champion and 2003 state champion Marian Catholic, and WPIAL champ Geibel Catholic.

“It’s a challenge, but that’s what we’re going there for … to play good volleyball,” Cochranton coach Marci Malliard said. “We’re going to have to step it up and play the best ball we can play.”

Northern Cambria is a familiar opponent for the Cardinals. Cochranton opened pool play versus the Colts a year ago, winning the match, 25-13, 25-18, 25-21. The Colts were also the Cards’ opponent in the championship match (25-17, 25-23, 25-20).

Northern Cambria has a local tie. Its head coach, Mike Hogan, is a Saegertown graduate and former star athlete for the Panthers.

Hogan returns all but two players from last year’s squad, including his daughter, Ashley, a 6-foot-1 middle hitter.

The Cards, meanwhile, lost four players to graduation, but return five, all of which have played a significant role in the team’s success this year.

“Obviously we had to step up our responsibility,” sophomore outside hitter Shelly Hill said. “We don’t have the height this year. We’ve had to step it up a lot defensively, especially. I think we’ve done a good job.”

Indeed. The Cards enter the state tournament as the District 10 champion and on a 20-match winning streak. Cochranton is 20-1 on the year with its lone loss coming to Class AA state quarterfinalist Titusville to open the season.

That is exactly the way Cochranton entered the state tournament one year ago.

“We just need to play our best ball and have fun,” Malliard said. “We’ve already accomplished a lot, but we need to set our goal one step higher and make sure we are back the second day. That’s the goal.”

The Cards are hoping the experience five of their starters gained during last year’s run will help in achieving that goal.

“I think they should benefit from already having this experience,” Malliard said of Lorena Babbitt, Leirin Baker, Channing Dale and Lisa and Shelly Hill. “They’ve been front and center. I think it should definitely give them a little confidence.”

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