HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS' VOLLEYBALL: Colts eliminate Penns Manor from D6 playoffs
ALTOONA — Déjà vu set in as the rubber match — a District 6 Class A quarterfinal-round girls’ volleyball playoff match — between Northern Cambria and Penns Manor concluded Tuesday at Bishop Guilfoyle High School.
For the second time this month, Northern Cambria junior Kaylee Krug swatted a kill on game point in Game 4 to solidify a Colts’ win over defending Heritage Conference and district champ Penns Manor.
Fourth-seeded Northern Cambria bested fifth-seeded Penns Manor by scores of 25-13, 20-25, 25-19, 25-21.
The Comets defeated the Colts, 3-2, in their first meeting on Sept. 10.
Krug then notched the match-winning kill in a 3-1 win for the Colts on Oct. 3.
Heritage Conference champion Northern Cambria (14-4) will travel to Bishop Guilfoyle to take on the top-seeded Marauders on Thursday night.
Fifth-seeded Penns Manor ended its season with a 12-5 mark.
“It’s always a lot of fun when Penns Manor plays Northern Cambria,” Northern Cambria coach Mike Hogan said.
“We knew this would be another good battle. They know all of our players (and) we know all of their players. There are no real surprises. It just comes down to who can be tough enough to win and who can minimize mistakes better.
“We made a lot of mistakes in two tough losses to Ligonier Valley and Altoona last week, but I’m very proud of my girls for fighting that off and coming out and playing strong from Game 1 on.”
The Colts set the tone for the night by bolting to leads of 10-5 and 18-8 in Game 1.
Northern Cambria senior Lakyn Fornari then notched back-to-back service points that Penns Manor failed to return to set up game-point for the Colts at 24-13.
On the ensuing point, Penns Manor senior Heather Aikens smacked a third volley into the net to cement a 25-13 win for the Colts.
“The girls didn’t doubt themselves and came out and made some very nice plays in Game 1. I was just real pleased with their ability to rebound after a tough week last week,” Hogan said.
Penns Manor regained its footing in Game 2, and didn’t look back after taking a 13-12 lead on a kill from senior Mary Roach.
Kills from senior Taylor Rainey and Aikens, and a pair of aces from senior Sarah DaBella forced game-point for Penns Manor at 24-19.
Two points later, Northern Cambria committed a service error to seal a 25-20 win for Penns Manor.
“We came out in Game 2 and served a little bit stronger and played defense a little bit better,” Penns Manor coach Barb Thornton said. “Our middles played really well in that game, and we were able to put them more on the defensive instead of us being on the defensive all the time.”
That changed again in the third game.
The Comets hung with the Colts until Northern Cambria went on a 6-0 run that put them ahead 14-6. Senior Renee Paronish cranked two kills on the run, while junior Jessica Sodmont drilled a kill, and Fornari racked up six service points, including an ace.
Sophomore Micayla Parfitt cut the Comets’ deficit to four points, 20-16, when she blocked a Fornari kill attempt into the Colts’ first row.
But Fornari responded and tallied two kills and an ace to bring up game point at 24-19, and the Colts closed it out on the next point.
“When you’re playing a big, tough, strong team that’s going to bring everything they have at you, you have to be able to handle those things, and we just didn’t handle them well enough,” Thornton said.
With the Colts trailing 14-10 in Game 3, junior Olivia Zernick piled up three straight aces to cut their deficit to one point, 14-13.
Zernick then racked up three additional service points to put the Colts ahead 16-14.
Then, on the strength of a kill and two aces from Fornari, a kill each from Paronish, Krug and senior Paige Benton, and an ace from senior Alyssa Walters, Northern Cambria grinded its way to game-point at 24-21.
Walters fed Krug on the next point and watched the powerful outside hitter leap above defenders at the net and rip a sizzling kill onto the left side of Penns Manor’s second row to stamp the win.
“I just wanted to get up there and smack it,” Krug said. “It feels so awesome to get that last hit and score that last point to win, especially against our biggest rival.
“When we play them I just feel like I’m on top of my game … like I have that killer instinct.”
Walters, who piled up a match-high 24 assists, admitted that she and the Colts reveled in the idea of playing a rubber match against Penns Manor in the district quarterfinals.
“I knew we were going to see them in the playoffs and I’m really glad we got to play them again,” Walters said. “The whole season we’ve been back and forth. We’re a pretty equal team, and it feels awesome to come out with the victory.”
Fornari amassed 10 kills and five aces to lead Northern Cambria. Paronish added nine kills, two blocks and an ace.
Roach paced Penns Manor with 10 kills. DaBella chipped in eight kills, and senior Mallory Drahnak had 23 assists.