INDIANA — The State College girls' volleyball team had already lost the first two sets and trailed 5-0 to start the third.
They had every reason to pack it in, say they did well enough, but instead they kept on going.
The Lady Little Lions still saw their season come to a close Saturday afternoon, but much like how their plans for the season were altered by injuries, the team never stopped working.
North Allegheny proved to be too strong and physical in the PIAA Class AAA quarterfinals at Indiana High School, sweeping State College 25-17,25-22,25-15.
"Unless you win the whole thing, its always difficult to lose," State College coach Chad Weight said. "But given the circumstances we had this year, I told them theres nothing for them to hang their heads about."
The Tigers (19-3) will face Hempfield, which beat Mount Lebanon 3-0, ironically in State College's gym, in Tuesday's semifinals.
They were led by Ava Mosbachers nine kills, Erin Swartzs six kills and two blocks, Maura Nolan's five kills and 26 assists, Danielle Walls three blocks and Cindy Chaos three aces.
With Mosbacher, Swartz and Wall all taller than six feet with good swings, it proved to be a tough matchup for the Lady Little Lions.
"They are a big team," said senior Suzanne Horner, who had 12 kills, 14 assists and four aces in her final match. "It was hard to execute what we worked on. ... We play hard, but whenever you play a team that big and physical, its hard to offset that."
The Lady Little Lions (24-5) managed only one terminal block on the big Tigers.
"They definitely dominated the game at the net, no doubt about that," said Weight, whose team fell during pool play in the same round last season.
"We stack up pretty well with anybody size-wise," said North Allegheny coach Heidi Miler, whose team held a 4-1 blocking advantage but trailed 32-28 in kills. "It just boils down to whether we can pass or not."
State College also led in hitting errors 21-9 and in service errors 8-3. Christine Irwin added 10 kills and eight digs and Jackie Horner gave out 13 assists.
The Lady Little Lions' tallest player, 6-foot-2 freshman Kyla Irwin, didnt play bad, but some off-the-mark passing limited the teams ability to run its middle hitters.
"It was pretty frustrating but we knew we had to play at our best level," Irwin said. "We had to control our errors and we didnt do that as well as they did."
The Tigers took control of the first set with an 8-0 run, after it had been tied 12-12, thanks to the serving of libero Kristen Mitchell, who racked 14 points including two aces in the first set alone.
State College then had a 12-5 lead in the second, but the Tigers put up 12 of the next 14 points with the help of a number of Lady Little Lion errors and never lost the advantage.
"They served pretty tough," Weight said. "Some of our kids had a hard time passing today. They outplayed us today, its that simple."
By the time it was 5-0 in the third, the match was essentially over, and though they never got closer than three points, the Lions didnt roll over.
"That was a little frustrating," Horner said. "Youve got to work though it. You have to encourage your teammates, tell them not to give up and be ready for the next play."
At the start of the summer, it appeared State College had a good shot at a state title run, with the prospect of at least three Division I recruits in the lineup. Horner is headed to Mississippi State, Emma Weakland will play at Winthrop and junior Taylor Leath has committed to North Carolina. However, knee injuries to Leath and Weakland sidelined them both, and instead weight had to shuffle the lineup.
"I would have liked to have seen the match-up there," Miller said. "It would have been exciting and competitive. We didnt play our best, so Im just happy to get a win." "Weve come a long way," Irwin said. "There were a lot of things we didn't expect. But we worked with what we had."
Still, they only lost twice during the regular season and finished with a perfect record in their first season in the Mid-Penn Conference, and they felt they proved wrong many doubters.
"It exceeded everybodys expectations," Horner said. "It exceeded my expectations of how well we would do. I had so much fun with the girls. It was definitely a good way to go out."