CAMBRIDGE SPRINGS — Cochranton head coach Marci Malliard was admittedly nervous heading into the Devils Den on Thursday night. And the Lady Cardinals did nothing to calm those nerves early on.
Midway through the second set, however, something clicked. Malliard and Co. had very little to worry about thereafter.
After dropping the opening set 25-18, the Cardinals rallied to win the next three 25-21, 25-16, 25-12 in a key Region 3 girls volleyball showdown against Cambridge Springs.
Cochranton’s win muddies the water a bit in the Region 3 title race. Union City still has a firm hold of first place in the region at 5-0. Cambridge Springs is now 4-1 in the region and tied for second place with Cochranton and Saegertown. The Devils still have matches remaining against Saegertown and Union City. Cochranton still has a matchup with the Panthers looming.
“That’s a huge win, obviously,” Malliard said. “We have to win out and Cambridge Springs needs to beat Union City at the end.”
For a while, it looked like Cochranton wasn’t going to be in those championship talks after the night’s end. Cambridge Springs dominated the opening set. The Devils served tough and the result was several free balls back at Cambridge for Rachel Swanson to set up to an arsenal of hitters. And those hitters were not missing, especially Ashton Hoover.
“We couldn’t pass,” Malliard said. “And everything they touched was (landing).”
In the blink of an eye, the Devils were up 12-4. The Cardinals did put together a nice little run with Taytum Jackson on serve and pulled to within four (13-9). But three rotations later, Cambridge strung together another big run — this time with Swanson serving up four aces — to give the Devils a 21-10 advantage.
Cambridge fed off that opening set and built a pretty substantial lead in Game 2 as well. But after Hoover put the Devils up 7-2 with a kill, the wheels slowly started to fall off. Cochranton eventually tied the set at 9-9 on a kill by Devyn Sokol. The Devils did retake the lead, answering with a 3-0 run to go up 12-9. But that’s where it ended for the Spa.
“I don’t know if it was little by little we got a little more confidence or if we got used to the noise,” Malliard said. “I don’t know.”
A misplayed free ball, a kill by Maria Amory and an attack error by the Devils put Cochranton up 14-12. It never trailed in the match again.
“We started worrying more ourselves instead of worrying about team,” Cambridge Springs coach John Turner said. “Take nothing away from Cochranton. Cochranton moved. Cochranton hustled. They kept the ball in play. Our serving could have been a lot better. First game, it was good. Second game, we kind of relaxed on that.
“We just couldn’t get back in the swing of things. They have to hopefully let this one go and start playing. We have Saegertown on Tuesday. We can play ball. There is no doubt. We have to come back around.”
Amory led the Cardinals with 14 kills. She also had three aces. Megan Heim and Sokol had six kills each. Cathryn Miller handed out 25 assists. Chelsey Freyermuth had 15 digs and two aces. Vincena Reese (nine digs), Jackson (seven digs) and Lexie Moore (six digs) also had solid nights defensively for the Cardinals. Riley Harvey and Sokol had two blocks apiece.
Hoover had eight kills to lead the Devils. Brooke Myers had seven kills. Paige Verbanac had 22 digs, while Swanson tallied 10 digs and 24 assists.