After defeating Huntingdon twice in the regular season, the Philipsburg-Osceola volleyball team looked to have a clear path to its third district title match in four years.
But the Lady Mounties knew they were going to struggle with the Lady Bearcats’ height advantage.
Still, No. 1 P-O toppled fourth-seeded Huntingdon 25-12, 25-20 and 25-17 on Thursday night in the District 6 Class AA semifinals.
“We knew it was going to be a tough match,” P-O coach Dave Eckberg said. “Huntingdon always is at the net. Their outside (Mackenzie Garner) is tough for anybody to stop when they play in system.
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“I think the key to the match was that we were able to be offensive and not just kind of sit back and give them free balls she (Garner) could pound at us. She did that enough as it was. We were able to attack the ball some.”
Philipsburg-Osceola (29-5) plays No. 2 seed Richland at 4 p.m. Saturday for the district title at the Altoona Fieldhouse.
The Lady Mounties got a balanced game from their hitters, as Kylie Scovern tallied 13 kills, while Abby Showers netted 10. Marlee Chutko also had six kills.
But it was the key service runs from Taylor Olenick and Jordyn Walstrom that helped P-O seal the deal.
“Both Jordyn and Taylor had key service runs for us tonight,” Eckberg said. “To be honest, they don’t get those chances a lot. It’s tough because they alternate that time. It’s hard for them to get into a rhythm because they have to sit out and then come back in again.
“To their credit, they came in when their time was called and put together some nice service runs that made the difference in games 1 and 2.”
Walstrom served up six points in the first game, after Philipsburg-Osceola took an 8-7 lead on a violation under the net by the Lady Bearcats.
The senior had two aces in the run, while also getting a kill from Abby Showers and dump from setter McKenzie Burge.
Huntingdon never came close after P-O went up 14-9, and the Lady Mounties went on to win that first set 25-12.
“They are a very skilled team,” Lady Bearcats coach Olivia Hallahan-Davis said. “You just have to keep going point-for-point. They have a little bit of a hole in the middle, so we tried to get to that a little bit at different times.
“They are an excellent team. You try anything, and they adjust.”
Philipsburg-Osceola had a couple of runs at the service line in the second set, which saw them jump out to a 20-7 lead.
Olenick served up six straight points, while Elizabeth Robertson had a run of five and Burge had a run of four during the span.
But Huntingdon rallied back, scoring four points off the serve of Morgan Glover to cut the lead to 21-14. The Lady Bearcats got as close as 24-20 before a kill by Showers gave the Lady Mounties the win.
“We told them, ‘Go out and play each ball to the best of your ability,’” Hallahan-Davis said. “You have nothing to lose. Just go out play ball and see how much we can work ourselves back into this game. We’ve been saying, ‘Keep that fire burning in the heart,’ and they definitely showed that tonight.”
P-O trailed three different times in the third set, as Garner made her presence known. The Lady Bearcat hitter had 11 kills and a block on the night.
“Without our passes, and if Kendall (Hudy, our setter) can’t get to the ball and get it out to her, it’s hard,” Hallahan-Davis said. “She’s getting the kills, but it’s the rest of the girls in the back row on the ground, getting the ball up to the setter to get it to her.
“It’s a team effort all-around, even if she is receiving the stats at the end.”
The Lady Mounties got things going, thanks to some big kills from Scovern and Showers to put the game away, 25-17.
Scovern had six kills in the set, while Showers had four.
“I can’t be more proud of the kids,” Eckberg said. “They have been pushing for this for a long time now. That’s a good team they beat, and they deserve a lot of credit.”
Robertson finished the match with 20 digs and nine service points, while Burge had 38 assists and 13 service points.
Showers had nine digs, while Scovern had seven.
Huntingdon ended the season at 14-5.