MEADVILLE — In a volleyball game between two evenly matched rivals, the smallest of scoring runs can be the most momentous.
However, it was a nine-point run for the Corry Beavers in the opening set of Saturday’s District 10 Class 2A Championship Game against the Maplewood Tigers, at the House of Thrills in Meadville High School, that provided the spark which led to Corry’s 25-21, 23-25, 25-22, 25-16 victory.
Maplewood (14-3) won the two dual-matches during the regular season, including the de facto Region 2 championship game in Guys Mills on Sept. 17. However, Corry (15-2) earned the more-recent success between the two title contenders coming into Saturday’s bout, with victories in the finals of the Cochranton and Maplewood Tournaments over the past few weekends. The Beavers came in as three-time defending district champions.
Unlike last year’s championship game, when Corry swept the match in three sets, Maplewood jumped out to a 17-12 lead midway through the first set. After Corry regained serve by claiming the next point, the Beavers took the ensuing eight points with Kelly Goodsel at the service line, which put them ahead, 21-17, en route to taking the set, 25-23.
During the nine-point run, Corry was able to take advantage of a Maplewood rotation that didn’t include hitters Maggie Thomas and Chloe Leech, who totaled 17 and 12 kills during the match, respectively.
“We got stuck into one rotation where we didn’t have Chloe or Maggie in there up front,” Maplewood coach Shelia Bancroft said. “Offensively, it can be one of our weaker (rotations). The problem is that we couldn’t pass the ball. We got stuck on that and gave up a big string of points. That was a very pivotal part of the whole match.”
Corry was looking for an opportunity to get on a run when Maplewood featured a rotation that had Thomas on the sideline. And, the Beavers took advantage of their opportunity.
“The key for us is to keep them out of system, especially when Maggie Thomas was in the back row,” Corry coach Kelly Goodsel said. “We thought we could score some points and that was the difference. When she was not on the court, we were able to take advantage of them being out of system.”
Down 1-0, the Tigers didn’t panic and evened the score with a 25-23 victory in set two. Maplewood battled for each point, and trailed the entire set until the Tigers evened the score at 22-all before taking three of the final four points.
“I told them that you didn’t quit or give up, and that was a key thing,” Bancroft said.
The Tigers fed Thomas the ball all throughout the second set, and the senior all-state player rewarded the team with seven kills in the canto. Bancroft called her senior a “phenomenal” player.
“For her to come back after an ACL injury last year, she started off a little slow in the beginning of the season, but she kept working hard and got herself back to where she was,” Bancroft said. “She was our go-to, and she’s a leader. When she was on, we were on, if we could get her the ball.”
In the third set, the two teams exchanged a couple of scoring runs before Corry pulled ahead for good, at 7-6. Over the course of the final two sets, Maplewood didn’t have much of an answer for Corry’s big hitters, Maddi Vona and Rachel Brady, who combined to rack up 36 kills in the match.
Corry will face North Catholic (19-1), the second seed out of the WPIAL on Tuesday in the first round of the PIAA Tournament, at 7:30 p.m., at Meadville High School.
“To say that you fought your way into the top 16 teams in the state fours years in a row, it’s pretty special,” coach Goodsel said.
Meanwhile, Maplewood will lose two seniors over the offseason, Thomas and Kirsten Motter. Bancroft stated after the match that her team accomplished season-long goals of winning the Region 2 title and getting to the district title match.
“We knew we had our work cut out for us,” Bancroft said of winning the district championship. “But, we had a chance because we beat them during the league play, but they got better. We just didn’t improve enough, and stay solid and consistent enough. They stayed more consistent than we did throughout the season, and that was a key. As you keep getting better, you have to stay consistent and limit those unforced errors. I just thought that we didn’t eliminate enough of those.”