The State College girls’ volleyball team got close, but not close enough.
The Lady Little Lions fell in five sets to Garnet Valley in the PIAA Class AAAA semifinals, and were denied a shot at their first state title.
The Jaguars prevailed 23-25, 25-22, 25-15, 21-25, 15-12 Tuesday night at Cumberland Valley High School.
State College was seeking its first trip to the state championship match. The program made three consecutive trips to the semifinals from 2004-06. Garnet Valley (19-2), making its first appearance in the semifinals, will meet Parkland, a 3-1 winner over Bishop Shanahan, in the state championship match at 5 p.m. Saturday at Richland High School in Johnstown.
Taylor Kuruzovich’s 16 assists, 14 kills and three aces led the Lady Little Lions (22-1), with Leah Henderson adding 20 assists, 11 kills and three blocks. Alli Henderson posted eight kills and 14 digs, and Laura Hildebrand picked up 12 digs.
Garnet Valley got balance with 14 kills from Nicole Loan, 13 from Gassidy Gallagher, 12 from Erin Patterson and 11 from Sydney Portale.
The first set could not have started better for the Lady Little Lions, with a Kuruzovich ace on the very first point as the team raced to a 9-2 lead on the strength of three aces for the team. But the Jaguars rallied, briefly had a lead for a point, and State College wrapped it up on a Garnet Valley service error.
The Jaguars controlled the second frame practically from end to end, never trailing for a point as the hitters started to find their range and using their size at the net. A Nicole Loan kill wrapped up the frame and knotted the match.
Garnet Valley rolled through a 9-1 run to close the third set, dictating play at the net, to take the lead. Loan had five kills and a block out of the middle to lead the way in the set.
State College got its offense in gear in the fourth to stay alive, with Kuruzovich putting down six of the team’s 13 kills. The team also collected three blocks in the set.
Garnet Valley used a 4-0 run to rally from two down in the fifth, and started to dictate play with its power again. When Sydney Portale fired a spike down the line, the Jaguars had the final point and the victory.