SAEGERTOWN — With just two weeks left in the regular season, Cambridge Springs found itself in prime position in a tight region battle. The Blue Devils weren’t in need of help from other teams. They simply needed to win out and they would at least share a piece of the Region 3 championship.
Now, they need a lot of assistance.
Saegertown rallied back from two sets down to beat Cambridge Springs 23-25, 12-25, 29-27, 25-16, 15-13 on Tuesday in front of a raucous crowd at the Panthers Den.
With the win, the Panthers move to 7-2 overall and are tied with Cochranton for second place in Region 3 at 5-1. Cochranton and Saegertown meet Oct. 10, the same day the Blue Devils will battle region-leading Union City. The Devils are 5-4 overall and 4-2 in the region. Union City is 10-1 overall and 6-0 in Region 3.
Buckle your seat belts, volleyball fans.
“We couldn’t have played any worse, especially in that second set,” Saegertown coach Justin Johnson said. “That’s the worst we’ve played all year. Not even close. But I’m real happy with the way we fought back.
“You play that bad in the second set and you think, even if we get the third one is it going to be enough? Are we going to waste too much energy and lay an egg. We didn’t. We stuck in there and we played well.”
It was all Cambridge Springs, however, up until that third set, with the exception of a late run by the Panthers in Game 1 that had the host up 23-21. A ball handling error pulled the Spa to within one (23-22). Ashton Hoover followed it up with an ace to tie it at 23. After an attack error by the Panthers, Brooke Myers dug up a kill attempt and sent it over the net where it dropped untouched for game point.
Then came Game 2, which the Panthers would rather forget about. Saegertown had eight miscues in the set from ball handling to net violations to attack errors. Meanwhile, the Devils kept stringing together points — led by Hoover, who finished the set with five kills and two blocks.
“The first two games were perfect. No flaws,” Cambridge Springs coach John Turner said. “But after that … “
The Blue Devils did fight in the third set. Saegertown bounced back and took a 6-3 lead. The Spa eventually tied it at 11-11. The set was tied 10 more times. Cambridge Springs did take the lead and had match point at 24-23 on a kill by Hoover. It was the first of three match points for the Blue Devils. But the Panthers fended off each one, finally taking a 28-27 lead on an ace by Ava Jones.
The Panthers, who switched from a 6-2 offense to a 5-1 in Game 3, secured the win on an attack error by the Devils to extend the match.
“We’ve been doing that for a little bit,” Johnson said of the 6-2. “And I might still go back to it. Just because it didn’t work tonight, doesn’t mean it’s not going to work another night. I just figured what the heck, let’s go back to what we know best. We just looked kind of out of place.”
What the Devils dealt Saegertown in Game 2, is what they got in return in Game 4, setting up the winner-takes-all fifth set.
The Panthers led that set 5-3. Cambridge did battle back and led 13-12. Back-to-back kills by Brittany Houck made it 14-13 in favor of the Panthers. Then Amber Costello knocked over a serve the Devils couldn’t cleanly handle, capping a big win for the Panthers.
“We’ve been getting better and better every year, but haven’t beaten a Cambridge or a Cochranton,” Johnson said. “For us to win this game, it was huge.”
Not nearly the same feeling for the Devils, who dropped their second straight.
“Unfortunately, it’s not all of the kids,” Turner said. “It’s just a few. It’s almost time to start calling them out one by one. I’m almost there. It comes down to just benching them. Enough is enough.”
The Devils still have a chance to get in on a piece of the region title, but need some help from Tidioute Charter on Thursday and a win against the Bears. Their best role may be as spoiler on Oct. 10, giving Saegertown or Cochranton a chance to share a piece of the region title with the Bears.
Saegertown had three players in double digits in kills led by Houck’s 13. Averie Braymer added 11 kills to go along with two blocks. Kaylee Mulligan had 10 kills. Defensively, Costello had 31 digs followed by Houck with 16, Mollie Przybrowski with 14 and Mulligan with 11. Jones had 35 assists.
For the Devils, Hoover had 16 kills with Myers adding seven and Taylor Smith six. Paige Verbanac had 23 digs. Myers had 20 digs and Rachel Swanson dug up 18 hits. Swanson also had 29 assists. Rhianna Eakin had five blocks, Jordyn Wheeler four blocks and Hoover three stops.