ALTOONA — On a night when fifth-seeded Northern Cambria couldn’t muster any momentum, top-seeded Bishop Guilfoyle could do no wrong on its home court.
Bishop Guilfoyle stole the momentum early and then never gave it back, dominating Northern Cambria en route to a sweep in the semifinals of the District 6 Class A girls’ volleyball playoffs Thursday.
The scores were 25-17, 25-6, 25-4. Northern Cambria, the Heritage Conference champ which knocked off defending district linchpin Penns Manor in the quarterfinals, concluded its season with a 14-5 mark.
The Marauders (19-1), who have six returning starters from a team that got knocked out in the semifinals in last year’s playoffs against Penns Manor, advance to the finals to play second-seeded Bishop Carroll on Saturday at Altoona Field House.
“We didn’t pass well and we didn’t set well, and we couldn’t get our offense going very well, and that just enabled their offense to just bang balls at us,” Northern Cambria coach Mike Hogan said. “Give Bishop Guilfoyle credit … they outmatched us today.
“We didn’t perform very well tonight. Our team could play a lot better. I don’t know if we could play well enough to beat them. They’re a pretty good team … one of the best I’ve seen this year.”
The Marauders took control late Game 1 and went on a 6-0 burst to take a 22-12 lead. Middle Hitter Jenn Patterson had two kills on the run, and outside hitter Annie Dombrowski had a kill and an ace.
The Colts then committed one of their four service errors in the opening set on game-point to lose 25-17.
“I thought it started for us with our tough serving,” Bishop Guilfoyle coach Bob Kasun said. “We were able to knock Northern Cambria out of system, and they weren’t able to run their middles as much as they normally like to.”
The Colts continued to struggle receiving service in Game 2, a shortcoming that the Marauders exploited and used to their advantage offensively.
Patterson found her groove late in the game and notched kills on three of five points to give Bishop Guilfoyle a 17-5 lead.
Patterson then reeled off eight straight service points to seal a 25-6 win for the Marauders. Dombrowski added four kills in the game, and Patterson had five.
“It got away from us fast,” Hogan said. “I was calling some timeouts early there, (but) they were putting some really good serving pressure on us. They were in a rhythm and they were playing pretty well. We had a couple things we knew they were going to do, (but) we didn’t pick that up early, and then it just steam rolled, and then they really got rolling there.”
The Marauders zoomed to a 5-0 lead in Game 3 before Hogan reluctantly signaled for a timeout.
The Colts won the next point on a kill from outside hitter Lakyn Fornari, but then lost the next point when they got whistled for a double-volley foul.
Dombrowski then amassed 17 straight service points, just one of which was an ace, to put Bishop Guilfoyle ahead 23-1. Middle hitter Bridgette O’Leary and right-side hitter Juliana Burke piled up three kills apiece on the spurt.
Northern Cambria committed its first serving error of Game 3 on game-point to stamp a 25-4 win for the Marauders.
“They definitely stole the momentum early,” Fornari, one of Northern Cambria’s five seniors, said. “We just didn’t show up, and I feel like we kind of psyched ourselves out. Nothing could get us going, and we couldn’t get any momentum. Every time we’d get a good hit, they’d come up with a block. We just couldn’t get any momentum going, and that killed us.”
Each member of the Colts’ productive senior class, libero Kelly Lieb, right-side hitter Paige Benton, middle hitter Renee Paronish, and setter Alyssa Walters, advanced to district semifinal games in three of four years.
Still, Fornari admitted that locking horns with the top-seeded Marauders on their home court affected the team’s psyche in a negative way.
“As much as I want to say it didn’t, I think it did,” Fornari said. “I was excited to be an underdog and to try and win a match that no one expected us to win … that we didn’t have in our favor. But I do feel that it might have had something to do with the way we played.”