Bald Eagle Area coach Larry Campbell took a timeout to remind his team how they reached the PIAA Class AA tournament.
The Lady Eagles trailed Beaver by six points in the third set and faced the possibility of getting swept without putting up much of a fight. Nerves rattled Bald Eagle Area in a blowout in the first set, and Beaver took a 2-1 lead it would never relinquish to take the second set.
The Lady Eagles were 15 points away from seeing a memorable season — highlighted by their run to the District 6 championship — quietly come to an end.
“We kind of talked about being passionate and playing for something,” Campbell said. “Everything we’ve done this year, we haven’t because of talent, we’ve done because of heart.”
BEA responded to Campbell’s message as the Lady Eagles threatened to force a fourth set but ultimately fell 25-10, 25-20, 25-23 to the Bobcats on Tuesday night in the first round of the state tournament at Central Cambria High School.
Hannah Park paced BEA with 16 digs and added six kills. Tylor Yarrison finished with a team-high eight kills, and Jessica Bressler finished with 19 assists.
Beaver, the fourth-place finisher out of District 7, advances to face Corry in the quarterfinals Saturday at a site and time to be determined. Corry beat District 7 champion Ford City 21-25, 25-22, 25-23, 21-25, 16-14 Tuesday night.
The Lady Eagles (17-6) captured the first district title in school history by upsetting top-seeded Huntingdon in the semifinals and holding off Penn Cambria for the championship.
That run grabbed Beaver’s attention going into the matchup.
“I know there’s fight in this team,” Beaver coach Charlene Horwatt told her players of BEA before the game. “They wouldn’t have upset Huntingdon and (did) what they had to do to get here, so if you decide you’re going to score some of their points, they’re going to come after you.
“And I really believed as long as we didn’t score their points, it was pretty much ours to win. I think we really were the better team, we were the bigger team and that helps at the net too.”
The Bobcats proved they were the better team from the start.
After BEA scored the first point, Beaver ripped off six straight points and rolled to a 25-10 victory. Beaver duo Kayla Bulat and Taylor Hineman each delivered their share of powerful shots, and BEA committed its share of errors to contribute to the blowout.
Campbell said his team was caught up in the atmosphere of the state tournament and needed to turn the page on its district championship to be ready for the challenge.
“You’ve got to start realizing instead of being the big fish in the little pond, now you’re the little fish in the big pond,” Campbell said. “Now we’re in the deep water and what do we got? And I think it’s a really good learning tool for some of our kids.”
The second set started like the first.
BEA took the first point on a kill by Yarrison.
Beaver registered four straight points to take the lead for good en route to a 25-20 win. Bald Eagle Area trimmed a 16-8 deficit to 17-13 and pulled within 19-16 and 23-20 in the loss.
The Bobcats jumped out to a 3-0 lead and led 10-4 when Campbell called for a timeout in the third set. The Lady Eagles closed the gap to 10-8 and tied it 11-11 on a block by Jenny Zimmerman.
Bressler gave BEA a 12-11 lead after dropping a shot over the net.
“For those kids to come out here in that third set and make that a game, that takes a lot of heart,” Horwatt said. “No quit in them, so you’ve got to respect that.”
Beaver responded to take an 18-13 lead, when Campbell gave a similar message during another timeout.
“Last set of your career,” Campbell said. “What are you going to do? We got off the deck again.”
The Lady Eagles came back to tie it 20-20, with Park sending a shot just over the net. Beaver and BEA traded points and were tied 21-21.
The Bobcats took the lead for good on the next point, ending BEA’s postseason run, which drew a standing ovation from the Lady Eagles’ fans.
“That’s the most mentally tough team I’ve had,” Campbell said. “It wasn’t the most talented team we’ve had in Bald Eagle in eight years here. I’d say we were the third or fourth (most) talented team and mentally tough we’re off the charts compared to what we’ve had here. That’s why we won.”