Cochranton finds itself in the path of a familiar opponent as it looks to advance to the PIAA Class 1A girls volleyball semifinals today at DuBois Central Catholic.
The Lady Cardinals face 1984 Saegertown graduate Michael Hogan and his defending state champion Northern Cambria Colts in the state quarterfinals at 1 p.m. The winner advances to face the winner of today’s 3 o’clock game between Clarion and Bishop Carroll — also at DCC — in Tuesday’s semifinals.
Cochranton and Northern Cambria have a little history in the state playoffs. Local fans will best remember the Lady Cardinals’ sweep over the Colts in 2004 that gave Cochranton its first state team title. The Colts got Cochranton back in 2005 with a win over the Cardinals in the state quarterfinals on their way to a state title. In 2007, the series shifted back in favor of the Cardinals, who beat NC in the state semifinals.
This year’s Northern Cambria team bears some comparison to that of 2004. Hogan’s daughter, Ashley, who went on to play at the University of Maryland, was a star on the Colts’ team that year. Now it’s Maggie Hogan, the youngest of Michael’s four children.
Maggie is one of a host of players back from the Colts’ state title team. The junior outside hitter has 278 kills (4.1 per set), 79 service aces and 169 digs on the year. Senior middle hitter Jenna Lutch has 137 kills, while senior outside hitter Autumn Donatelli has 112 kills, 24 aces and 127 digs. Defensively, senior libero Rayna Buza leads the way with 221 digs. Junior setter Camryn Dumm has 577 assists, 142 digs and 43 assists.
The Colts are 20-1 on the year and advanced to the quarterfinals with a 21-25, 25-16, 25-14, 26-24 win over Fort Cherry on Tuesday. Hogan had 15 kills in the win while Lutch added eight kills and three blocks.
Cochranton is coming off one of its best performances. The Cardinals were clicking on all cylinders through three sets of a four-set win against Elk County Catholic on Tuesday. Senior setter Cathryn Miller had seven kills, 10 digs and 35 assists for the D-10 champions, who moved to 15-4 and are the lone District 10 team still alive in the postseason. Maria Amory had 15 kills and five aces. Megan Heim had 11 kills and Devyn Sokol added seven kills. Carly Richter served up four aces.
While the Colts have some big experience, especially on the big stage, the Cardinals do not. Cochranton has three freshmen who played a pivotal role in its success as well as two sophomores. Young or old, though, the Cardinals are meshing at the right time of the season and are ready for their next challenge.
“Oh yeah,” Miller said when asked if she was ready for some more volleyball following the Cards’ win over ECC.