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NORTHERN CAMBRIA — Two of the top small-school girls’ volleyball programs in the state opened the season against each other in an empty gym on Monday night.

Northern Cambria, the two-time defending Class 1A state champion, topped perennial power West Shamokin, 27-25, 21-25, 26-24, 25-22, in a Heritage Conference match. No fans were allowed to attend due state COVID-19 guidelines that limit indoor gatherings to 25 people.

“When the whistle blew and we got the volleyball going, two teams that have battled against each other over the years had a very good athletic contest,” Northern Cambria coach Mike Hogan said. “The student body and community missed a good one that fans would have loved, but the rules are what the rules are.

“The kids, I’m proud of both teams for not pouting around about it. Both were on their game and played a solid, competitive high school volleyball match. It was the first one so they were anxious to get started. The atmosphere wasn’t the greatest, but the teams celebrated with each other and showed great sportsmanship and had a fun night.”

Northern Cambria, which lost four seniors from its state championship team, got a lift from some veterans: seniors Maggie Hogan and Camryn Dumm and junior Jessica Krug.

 “Jess Krug did an outstanding job on the serve-receive,” Coach Hogan said. “She’s our libero, and she settled us down all night. I thought Maggie and Camryn both had good games. Camryn, who rotated in last year, was running the offense and led us in assists. And she does it all — calling the plays and running the offense — and she did a really nice job.

“Maggie led the team in kills by far. She had one those nights she had to have if we were going to beat West Shamokin. Those two rise to the occasion when there are big games.”

A couple new regular also provided a lift.

“Maggie and Camryn got great help from Jess Krug and Emma Kollar and Ella Dobranski,” the coach said. “Emma has really matured and is turning into a polished player, so she’s doing some good things.”

The Northern Cambria coach also complimented a strong West Shamokin program, which made it to the state semifinals a year ago but didn’t have to face the Wolves in the tournament.

“Coach (Malinda) Oesterling does a nice job and has a solid, super-athletic team,” he said. “And Abby Oesterling is their leader and does a nice job. She has all their assists, and she made a couple critical plays late in the game they won. ... They’ve developed some strong hitters out there so they did a nice job.

“I’m glad the new kids were able to jump in and play and get a good, quality game under their belts. So it will be a good contest when we go down there. We’ll have to be ready.”

Northern Cambria won the junior varsity match, 25-16, 25-16.

Northern Cambria plays at Blairsville on Wednesday. West Shamokin is back in action this evening at Marion Center.