COCHRANTON — Cochranton and Meadville battled at The Bird Cage on Thursday with the Bulldogs getting the best of the Cardinals 3-0 (28-26, 25-18, 25-18).

The first set was a back-and-forth affair. Each team went on scoring runs, but with the set on the line, it was tied at 23. A Landon Homa kill put Cochranton at set point, but Jackson Decker responded for Meadville.

Meadville senior Hunter Graham delivered an ace to give his team set point, but the team followed with an error to force another tie. The Bulldogs put the set away with kills from Decker and Luc Soerensen.

The result was momentum in Meadville’s favor and Cochranton behind the eight ball.

“In the first game, we had six missed serves and they had one. That makes a huge difference in a two-point game,” Cochranton head coach Rob Cierniakoski. “If you win that first set, who knows what the rest of the match looks like.”

In the second set, the ’Dogs offense was rolling. Outside hitters Decker and Soerensen buried kill after kill into the Cardinals’ defense. With the big time slams came more energy and Meadville used it to take a 23-15 lead late in the second set.

Meadville junior Jack Brown, a first-year starting setter on varsity, set up his hitters with good opportunities.

“He did very well. We didn’t make it easy on him passing wise. I thought he ran a really nice offense through the pins,” Meadville head coach Nick Bancroft said. “We keep getting reps and he will keep making good choices moving forward.”

Meadville won the second set on a Cochranton service error.

The Bulldogs went up early in the third set and held a comfortable lead throughout. Decker hammered the match-winning spike into the back corner of Cochranton’s defense to give his team the win.

Decker, a senior, led all scorers with 18 kills. He added five digs and two blocks. Soerensen, a freshman, tallied nine kills, eight digs and two blocks. Kellen Ball, at middle hitter, had seven kills.

“We knew coming in this season the pins, our outside of the offense, would be strong. If we can get the middles going we are going to be tough. We need to pass the ball better to do that,” Bancroft said. “Right now, we are getting too used to putting the ball on the right side and getting too lackadaisical with easy balls. It will come with lots of reps.

“We still need to get a killer instinct when we are on the court. We relied on the seniors that graduated last year for that. We have Jackson, but we need to have more than one person we can lean on. We need to mold together as a team.”

Brown dished 31 assists for Meadville and Hunter Graham added six digs. Meadville is 2-0 and will play at the Derry Tournament this weekend.

Cochranton is 1-3, with losses to Meadville, McDowell and Mercyhurst Prep.

“It’s still early. Both teams I think there was a bit of ugly volleyball because it is so early but it’ll get better as we go,” Cierniakoski said. “I trust that our guys have played enough volleyball that they will get into a rhythm and eliminate some of those stretches.

“We just played three really tough teams in a row. I feel like against each of them, on our side of the net, we’ve cleaned it up against each opponent. We’ve shortened some of those stretches of weak play.”

Homa led the Cardinals with 14 kills. Chase Miller tallied 12 digs and 11 kills. Andrew Custead dished 35 assists and Dawson Carroll added 10 digs.

Cochranton will compete in the Northeastern Tournament this weekend.

Alex Topor can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at atopor@meadvilletribune.com.

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