SAEGERTOWN — Through the opening two sets, Saegertown High School gymnasium sat relatively quiet with the exception of a few rounds of applause and cheers. Then reality set in.

For the four teams sitting atop the Region 3 girls volleyball standings there is little room for error and each match from here on out carries the magnitude of a playoff match. And on Tuesday night, Saegertown had the opportunity to take a little bit of the pressure off itself.

Saegertown entered last night’s match at 7-2 in Region 3 and with a chance to extend its lead for second place in the region to at least a game and a half. But Cochranton, also fighting for its playoff life, had other plans.

The Cardinals dominated in the early going and then held off a fierce rally by the Panthers on their way to a 25-15, 25-12, 22-25, 25-15 win.

Cochranton and Saegertown are now tied for second place in Region 3 at 7-3. The Cardinals are 7-4 overall and the Panthers are 8-4.

“Huge. We both knew how important this was,” Cochranton coach Marci Malliard said. “We talked about it before the match even started. It’s do or die with the rest of the matches we have left.

“There aren’t that many bids to be able to take four of us out of this league. It was huge. Definitely.”

Unable to receive serves and run its offense consistently in the opening two sets, Saegertown found itself in dire straits. In Game 3, though, something clicked and the Panthers were able to run their offense efficiently. That excited the Saegertown faithful and the Panthers rallied behind them for a 25-22 win and another chance.

“I was nervous to have to play a fourth game like that,” Cochranton coach Malliard said. “They had a lot of momentum coming out of that third game and they came right at us in the fourth.”

But that’s when the passing woes reappeared and Cochranton took advantage to post the crucial win.

“We couldn’t serve-receive,” Saegertown coach Bill Mailliard said. “We didn’t serve well and we didn’t serve-receive well tonight …I don’t know if it’s a mental thing or what against Cochranton and Maplewood. But I don’t think they believe they can beat these teams.”

Saegertown will have to find a way to beat the other one later on this week. The Panthers face the region-leading Tigers on Thursday.

“Tonight we could have gone a long ways in determining those (District 10) brackets,” the Panthers’ coach Mailliard said. “Now we have to beat Maplewood on Thursday and see what we can do.

“I don’t want to be tied for that third position. I’ve looked at the scenarios.”

While the Cardinals’ win put them in a good spot in the playoff race, Cochranton still has some work to do. Cochranton has a bye on Thursday and returns to dual match action on Tuesday against a red hot Cambridge Springs squad.

The Blue Devils beat Cochranton in five sets earlier this season and are also the only team in the region to have beaten Maplewood.

Kass Dickson led the Cardinals with nine kills, while Lexi O’Donnell added seven. Morghan Egli dished out 26 assists. Sam Kinter and Shelby Staudt had 15 and 12 digs, respectively.

For the Panthers, Mackensie Garris led all players with 13 kills. Maile Chang had 25 assists. Sarah Allen had eight digs. 

Lisa Byers can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at lbyers@meadvilletribune.com.

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