Cardinals

The Cochranton girls volleyball team celebrates a point during a District 10 Class 1A semifinal showdown with Cambridge Springs on Tuesday at Meadville High School. The Cardinals fended off two late rallies by the Blue Devils in the second and third sets to post a 25-20, 26-24, 25-23 victory.

When Cambridge Springs and Cochranton met earlier in the season, the Cardinals, after dropping the first set, cruised to an easy win over the Blue Devils. 

On Tuesday evening, it looked like their second meeting was going to be similar. Only this time, Cochranton was going to take control early. But in the District 10 girls volleyball playoffs, anything can happen, especially with Crawford County rivals going head-to-head. And the Blue Devils nearly made something happen.

Cochranton fended off two late rallies by Cambridge Springs in the second and third sets to post a 25-20, 26-24, 25-23 win over the Blue Devils in the District 10 Class 1A semifinals at Meadville Area Senior High School’s House of Thrills. 

Cochranton improves to 13-4 overall and advances to face Saegertown, a 20-25, 25-14, 25-20, 25-16 winner over Union City last night, in the D-10 championship match on Saturday at a site and time to be determined. The Cardinals also guarantee themselves a spot in the state tournament.

The Blue Devils end their season at 7-7.

“I think I have a dozen more gray hairs,” Cochranton coach Marci Malliard said jokingly following the win.

The Cardinals came out strong in the opening set and rode the arm of sophomore Megan Heim to a 7-3 advantage. The Blue Devils did rally back to tie it at 8-8. But Cochranton went on a run of its own to push their lead back to four (14-10). Another strong run by Heim made it a 19-14 game in favor of the Cardinals. That cushion proved to be enough.

Heim finished with five kills in the set.

“We need her,” Malliard said. “Every time she gets a big approach like she’s supposed to, she gets a good swing at the ball.”

Heim didn’t get the ball as much in the final two sets, credit to Cambridge Springs.

“The girls adjusted,” Cambridge Springs coach John Turner said. “And that was due to our serving too. We kept the ball to where they couldn’t get it right up to her and it threw her off her game a little bit. That’s why we say serving wins games. It’s not always the big kill and all that. It’s more the serving and that’s what we did.”

“We set her some, but we didn’t seem to be setting her as much,” Malliard added. “I felt like our passing kind of went away and we struggled ball handling a little bit.” 

Now, while Heim was kept in check the second and third sets, senior Maria Amory was not and that allowed the Cardinals, again, to build big leads. In the second set, the Cardinals jumped out to a 6-1 lead and were never really threatened until way late when Cochranton went on a run of unforced errors. 

Cambridge trailed 21-17. Back to back attack errors made it 21-19. The Blue Devils eventually tied it at 23-23 with four of the six points they scored coming off Cochranton miscues.

“The further you go, the more you have to minimize your errors,” Malliard said. “Sometimes it doesn’t always happen.”

Cochranton took a 24-23 lead on a kill by Devyn Sokol. But a bad pass by the Cardinals resulted in a kill by Rachel Swanson to knot it back up at 24-24. The Cardinals finished it with back to back kills by Amory.

But the Devils were right back at it in the third set. Cochranton led 24-18 in this one when a kill by Brooke Myers sparked a 5-0 run by Cambridge Springs to pull them to within one (24-23). A long kill attempt by the Devils ended the rally and sealed the win for the Cardinals.

“I’m pleased with our season,” Turner said. “I thought the girls played well together. I just would have liked more talking. Finishing a little bit better would have benefited us, but overall I’m pleased. I’m not disappointed per say. I mean you are; you lost. But overall … We are losing four seniors who did a lot for us and losing a two-year setter. Now it’s back to the drawing board and see what we can come with next year.”

Amory led the Cardinals with 13 kills. Sokol tallied nine kills and Heim finished with eight. Defensively, Vincena Reese had nine digs followed by Taytum Jackson with eight and Cathryn Miller with seven. Amory had four aces and Chelsey Freyermuth had three aces. Miller dished out 27 assists.

For the Devils, Ashton Hoover had a team-best nine kills with Myers adding eight and Taylor Smith six. Paige Verbanac tallied 23 digs and Myers had 19 digs. Rachel Swanson had 21 assists.

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