GUYS MILLS — For the better part of two months, the action that occurs in a volleyball match is for one purpose only: to win.
But for the last 10 years, the Cochranton and Maplewood girls volleyball teams have met in October with an even bigger purpose. On Thursday, nearly 500 fans joined in on that purpose, raising nearly $2,100 for the Yolanda G. Barco Oncology Institute at the annual Dig for a Cure night.
“It was packed in here tonight,” Maplewood coach Sheila Bancroft said. “You would have thought it was for a region championship or a District 10 championship. It was awesome. I hope we can do it for another 10 years.
“To see the communities come together … Great donations from the Cochranton people and around us. The parents did spectacular and the girls worked hard to put this together. It means a lot.
“You have to sit back and look at life. Volleyball wasn’t the important thing tonight; it really wasn’t. We made it fun and we made it entertaining. But the goal of all this is to support those families who have loved ones (battling breast cancer). I’ve been touched by it and others around us.”
The Cardinals and Tigers accomplished that goal. Then they got in a little preparation for what lies ahead of them in just a few weeks: the playoffs. The Tigers came out the victors: 25-17, 25-16, 25-22. And both learned they have a ways to go to be where they want when the final whistle of the regular season blows.
Maplewood looked pretty good for the first two and a half sets, relying once again on their outstanding serving game to keep Cochranton’s offense scrambling.
The Tigers jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the first set. The Cards did battle back to close to within one. But Maplewood answered with a 6-1 run to give them a six-point cushion — up 17-11.
Maplewood also jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the second set and kept Cochranton from forging any big comeback in that one. In fact, the Cardinals scored consecutive points just once in the set. That came with the help of a service error and a kill by Devyn Sokol to make the score 18-12 in favor of the Tigers.
The third set was a much different story. It was the fans of the Cochranton and Maplewood programs, who have a storied tradition, have come to expect.
The start mirrored those first two sets, however. Again, the Tigers jumped out to a decent lead and extended that lead with a big scoring run with Chloe Leech at the service line. The Cardinals committed three hitting errors and were whistled for a net violation that helped Maplewood take a 12-5 lead.
But this time the Cardinals answered with a nice run of their own. The Tigers helped out with some unforced errors, but Cochranton also got its offense moving. Maria Amory had a nice kill followed by a smart tap over by setter Cathryn Miller for a kill. Soon enough, Maplewood’s lead was down to just one (12-11).
The Cardinals eventually knotted it at 14 on a block by Amory. They later took their first lead of the set (16-15) on a Maplewood hitting error. Cochranton kept at least a share of the lead (four ties) until a hitting miscue put the Tigers up 23-22. Maggie Thomas made it 24-22 with a kill. Her sister, Sadie, then added the finishing touch with a kill to end the match.
“We could have rolled over and not done anything in that third game,” Cochranton coach Marci Malliard said. “So I was glad we came out like that. But if you can do that in Game 3, you can do that all the time.
“When we passed well, then no one could take care of the ball at the net. (Maplewood is) a tough serving team. So when you are able to get the ball in front of the 10-foot line, you need to be able to take care of it at the net.”
While the big stat of the night was that $2,100, Leech also had a big evening with nine kills and 11 digs for the Tigers (9-1). Maggie Thomas also had nine kills, while Sadie Thomas and Kaysea Thomas had six kills each. Sadie Thomas also had six digs. Bailey Varndell dished out 33 assists.
For the Cardinals (7-3), Amory led the way with nine kills. Miller and Vincena Reese had eight digs each. Riley Harvey had two blocks. Miller also had 15 assists.