To say the expectations were high for the Bald Eagle Area girls’ volleyball team would be an understatement.
The girls were tall, talented and experienced, returning every starter from a year ago.
“We thought we were going to at least make it to the (district) final,” senior libero Regan Dyke said. “At least then go on to state (tournament) play. Then things like this happen.”
What happened was Bishop McCort swept away the top-seeded Lady Eagles in the District 6 Class AA quarterfinals 25-16, 25-22, 25-16 Tuesday night in BEA’s gym.
Machala Gibbons’ 25 kills paced the Crimson Crushers (14-5), who will meet either West Branch or Central Cambria in Thursday’s semifinals.
BEA (16-2) hadn’t lost outside of tournaments since August. In fact, in recent matches, the Lady Eagles were hardly tested.
“Good, bad or indifferent, in our season, we won 45 of our last 48 sets,” BEA coach Larry Campbell said. “At no point were our kids like, ‘Wow. we’ve got to dig in and go figure stuff out.’ That’s part of the problem.”
Campbell’s team was led by Katie Flick’s 10 kills, Caylee McCaslin’s six kills, Dyke’s 14 digs and two aces, Ally Onder’s 12 digs, Madison McCauley’s three blocks, Madi Hahn’s 17 assists and Madison Rockey’s 13 assists.
While the Lady Eagles had plenty of size, they could not overpower a Crushers team that didn’t have anyone taller than 5-foot-7.
“People look down on our team because we’re small,” Crushers coach Laura Swank said. “But we can jump and we’re fast. We can utilize that.”
The quickness and jumping ability showed from the beginning, when McCort outblocked BEA 5-1 in the first set.
“It’s a different style from what we play and we didn’t adjust,” Campbell said. “Our kids are out there ripping and tearing, hitting shots, just banging the ball. They’re hitting shots, chops, pushes and tips, we just didn’t adjust.”
McCort also played clean, with just four total errors in the first set and just 20 for the match. The Lady Eagles made 26 errors.
But Campbell also thought his girls underestimated their opponent, which made up for the lack of power by moving the ball around to a number of different hitting zones thanks to some solid passing. The Crushers have a drill in practice expeting 200 perfect passes in 15 minutes.
“They were a little more physical than we realized,” Campbell said. “We thought we could hit over the top a little bit more. The kids were hitting into the tape. You’ve got to reach high and attack the top half of the block — and hitting the same shot. ... Change it up, do something different. We’re like that (cartoon) of that kid pushing on the (pull-open) door. We’re pushing on the door and wondering why it’s not opening.”
“Looking at Set 1, we didn’t come out and compete, so seeing us lose Set 2 and Set 3 makes a little bit of sense,” Dyke said. “We didn’t compete well. Coming into this match we thought we were going to come out on top, and we didn’t show up. We never showed up. We were kind of stuck.”
Sierra Widmar gave out 18 assists and added 11 kills and three aces, Clara Wilson also served up three aces and Erica Seitz had nine digs for McCort.
BEA led for exactly three points all night, by one at three separate times early in the third set. The Lady Eagles fought hard in the third and looked like they still had life tied at 16-16. Then the Crushers rattled off the last nine points to lock it up.
“Even after Set 2, ‘We’re still in this,’” Dyke said. “It’s not over til it’s over. Then it was over.”
It ended the season much sooner than planned.
“We had high expectations,” Dyke said. “We didn’t meet them.”