Maplewood and Saegertown have engaged in a few exciting matches this season both in dual play and throughout the tournament season. On Thursday, they will get the chance to do it again; this time with a little more on the line.

The Tigers and Panthers face each other at 7 p.m. Thursday for a spot in Friday’s District 10 title match. The PENNCREST School District rivals advanced to the winner’s bracket final by going 2-0 during the opening rounds Tuesday at Meadville High School’s House of Thrills.

Cochranton, Meadville, Conneaut Valley and Cambridge Springs are also still alive, but must battle back through the loser’s bracket.

The Tigers are going after a shot at their second straight District 10 crown and seventh in nine years. The Panthers are going for their first.

“I expected us to come in and play good ball and I thought we did,” said Maplewood coach Sheila Bancroft, whose team came into the tourney as the No. 1 seed and ranked ninth in the state in Class AA by the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association. Saegertown is ranked 10th.

“Our goal was to come in and get two wins. I thought we played some pretty consistent ball Rocky Grove through Cambridge Springs.”

All-in-all the first day of the tournament went pretty much as it was drawn up on paper with the top two seeds still alive in the winner’s bracket and the last two seeds, Farrell and Rocky Grove, eliminated. But of course, it wouldn’t be a typical District 10 boys volleyball tournament without some excitement.

While Maplewood’s ride to the District 10 winner’s bracket final was relatively simple with wins over Rocky Grove (25-8, 25-10) and Cambridge Springs (25-17, 25-18), the same can’t be said about either of the remaining five teams still alive.

Saegertown, for example, needed all three games to get by Meadville. The Panthers, who beat Farrell (25-14, 25-8) in the first round, opened the match with a rather easy win over the Bulldogs (25-16), but had their fortune reversed in the second game with Meadville coming away with a 25-13 win.

That set up an exciting third game that featured the best and loudest fan support of the night.

Saegertown jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the game, but allowed the Bulldogs to come charging back to tie the game at 12-12. That’s when 6-foot-2 sophomore Kyle Beatty emerged for the Panthers, though, powering the Cats through a 12-4 run and to a 25-17 win.

“The difference in that first and third game was we did put up a block and they were able to put a lot of balls down,” MASH coach Doug Nelson said. “The second game we came out and played. They could have buried themselves with the way (Saegertown) smacked us there in the first game, but we didn’t. We came out and took care of the game. But in the third game they came back.”

The match between Saegertown and Meadville had a rival for Match of the Day, though, and that came in the first round of the winner’s bracket between No. 4 seed Cambridge Springs and No. 5 seed Cochranton.

Cambridge came away with a thrilling 25-20, 21-25, 31-29 win after coming within just a point twice from being upset by the Cards in the final game.

Mick Sheehan gave the Cards that final game point (29-28) with a service ace. But Lucas Acker responded with a kill to tie the game for the 12th time (29-29) and Colton Spaid followed with a block to give the Spa a 30-29 lead. A ball-handling error sealed the win for Cambridge (31-29).

“Cochranton has a nice team,” Spa coach Rick Welker said. “They’re very aggressive, very scrappy. I thought they played really well. We were very fortunate to come out with a win in the end.”

Is there still an upset in the wings, though?

“There is a lot of volleyball left to play,” Saegertown coach Justin Johnson said. “Something is going to happen. (It) always does. You don’t know exactly who it is going to be. I saw some teams that played good (Tuesday), but some of those teams who played poorly on the first day may come back and pick it up the next two days.

“It’s going to be crazy. I think Maplewood and us are going to be fired up to play each other. It’s going to be a good time.”

Cochranton remained alive by beating Rocky Grove (25-7, 25-19) in the first round of the loser’s bracket and will face Meadville at 6 p.m. Thursday. Cambridge Springs will play Conneaut Valley, who topped Farrell (25-22, 25-17) in the loser’s bracket yesterday.

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