HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL: Colts rally for big win vs. Comets
KENWOOD — Similarly to their first matchup, the Northern Cambria girls’ volleyball team had to dig out of a hole to claw back into Thursday’s showdown against Penns Manor.
But unlike their first meeting, in which Northern Cambria erased a two-game deficit before dropping the decisive fifth game, the Colts didn’t suffer any lapses after Game 1, and saved their best play for the ends of the last three games.
After losing the opening game, Northern Cambria responded to win nail-biters in the last three, outlasting Penns Manor, 16-25, 27-25, 28-26, 27-25, in a Heritage Conference match.
Penns Manor (8-2) travels to Purchase Line on Tuesday. Northern Cambria (8-2) plays host to Purchase Line on Oct. 17.
“It’s always a great match when we play Penns Manor,” longtime Northern Cambria coach Mike Hogan said. “They don’t like losing to us (and) we don’t like losing to them. They beat us in five at our place the first time around, so we had to come up here and try and take one from them. Who knows, maybe we’ll see them at districts. If we do meet, you can almost guarantee it’s going to be a great match just like tonight.”
The charged-up Comets handled the Colts’ service masterfully in Game 1, and their offense benefited greatly from their consistently clean digging.
Taylor Rainey piled up four kills and four service points in Game 1, and helped the Comets build leads of 17-10 and 23-13.
On the Comets’ third opportunity at game point, Northern Cambria’s Paige Benton fired a service error out of bounds to her right, giving the Comets a 25-16 win.
“They came out excited,” Hogan said. “I give them credit. They performed very well early on and put some balls on us from their marquee hitters that we couldn’t handle.
“I thought we were ready for that and we weren’t, so I had to make some early adjustments and substitutions, and I thought that really helped. We got right back in the present and back in the match.”
The Comets and Colts exchanged blows for the better part of Game 2, with the teams forging ties on 16 occasions.
Penns Manor kept a pulse on game point when Northern Cambria’s Alyssa Walters got whistled for a foot foul to force the last tie of the game at 25-25.
Northern Cambria won the next two points, including taking game point on a Penns Manor carry, to nip the Comets, 27-25, and tie the match at one game apiece.
“We came out in the second game and made a lot of mistakes and didn’t finish points, and that’s something that we tend to do,” Penns Manor coach Barb Thornton said. “When you’re making a lot of errors, and you’re playing a big, strong team like Northern Cambria, you just can’t expect to win all the points, and we didn’t.”
The third game unfolded in similarly back-and-forth fashion as the second game, with the Colts and Comets knotting the game nine times.
Penns Manor’s Sarah DaBella moved right and then dropped a nifty kill to her left in between the first and second rows of the Colts to tie the game 26-26.
The Comets got called for a net foul on the next point to give Northern Cambria game point at 27-26.
Heather Aikens nearly forced another tie for Penns Manor on the ensuing point, only to watch her kill attempt sail just out of bounds to seal a 28-26 win for Northern Cambria.
“It just came down to little mistakes,” Thornton said. “We had more net fouls tonight than we’ve had all season. We also had some errors hitting.
“But give them credit. They really came after us hard, and I knew they would after losing to Bishop Guilfoyle on Monday night.”
The Colts raced to a 9-2 lead in Game 4, but eventually allowed the Comets to creep back in the game.
A soft, two-handed kill from DaBella trimmed Northern Cambria’s lead to 18-17.
Back-to-back service points from Taylor Sherry, the second of which was an ace, gave Penns Manor a 19-18 lead.
The two teams forged seven ties in the next 13 points, the last coming when Aikens ripped a kill off the hands of Kaylee Krug to make it a 25-25 game.
But a miscommunication between Mary Roach and Sherry on the next point gave Northern Cambria a 26-25 lead.
On the Colts’ second crack at game point in Game 4, Krug blocked a pair of Penns Manor kill attempts before using a two-handed lob to deceive the Comets’ first and second row players on the left side of their defense.
Krug’s shot fell untouched along the left boundary, ending a long volley and cementing a 27-25 win to secure the match victory.
“I just got up and pushed it where it needed to go, where there was an open spot,” Krug said. “That’s just what Mr. Hogan has always taught us to do.”
“We ended up getting in a rotation where our second outside hitter, Kaylee, was in the front row, and she performed wonderfully,” Hogan said. “She had two really big kills right there, and she made a few fantastic passes. But what really made it so special was she was able to bounce back from the few mistakes she made a bit earlier in that game.
“We just kept talking to her, and the whole team, about staying in the present and about forgetting mistakes. I’m just really proud of her for making a couple mistakes, but staying in the present and staying focused enough to get the game-winner.”
Drahnak, who finished with 26 assists, talked about the heated but healthy rivalry between Northern Cambria and Penns Manor.
“Northern Cambria’s definitely our biggest rival, and we’re out to beat them if we see them at districts,” Drahnak said. “They have a lot of skill on their team, and we definitely have skill on our team. We just love to see who comes out on top. They better be ready for another tough match if they see us again, though, because we’ll definitely be ready for them.”
Fornari paced Northern Cambria with 11 kills.
DaBella powered Penns Manor with 18 kills.