Last year, the Philipsburg-Osceola volleyball team sat around the dinner table after a hard loss to Penn Cambria in the District 6 Class AA championship game.
The Lady Mounties vowed to get back to the title game and this time take home the prize.
Turns out, they are pretty good at keeping their promises.
P-O made it back to the Class AA title game on Saturday at the Altoona Fieldhouse, and this time left no doubt, sweeping second-seeded Richland.
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The Lady Mounties won by scores of 25-19, 25-22 and 25-21.
“Last year, on this same night, we said that we were only going to push for this night again,” Philipsburg-Osceola coach Dave Eckberg said. “But, this time we were going to be on the winning side.
“For them to be able to live that dream out, is just great. You can see their emotion out there. You can’t really script it any better than this. It’s kind of like having a little bit of a proud father moment. You get to see them put in all the work and then get to enjoy this moment.”
The Lady Mounties, who have been to the title game three times in the last four years, have had a history of starting out slow.
But this year, P-O showed no nerves, despite going down early to the Lady Rams.
The key to the Lady Mounties gameplan was to try and stop Richland’s big outside hitter Kelsey Roush. And, if they couldn’t do that, to at least gain a big enough lead when Roush was trapped in the back row.
“We kept trying to adjust to what she was doing, but she was just too strong,” Eckberg said. “All we tried to do was capitalize when she was in the back row. We had to win the battles on the three rotations she was in back row. We had to build a lead and just ride it out.
“I think if you look at the tape, that’s how it played out for us. We got our leads when she played back row and played even when she was front row. That was the difference in the match.”
Roush finished the game with 13 kills.
The Lady Mounties stuck with the gameplan most of the match, and it seemed to work, as P-O pulled out to a lead in the first set right after Roush’s turn at the service line.
Richland cut into the Lady Mounties’ lead several times, but could never take the lead and pull away.
Part of that was the fantastic back row play of Abby Showers, Liz Robertson and Kylie Scovern.
Showers had six digs on the night, while Scovern and Robertson each had five.
All three players saved several hard hit balls by not only Roush, but Lady Ram hitters Natalie Gilbert, Alyssa Rozich and Mackenzie Roberts-Moore.
That helped P-O put the first set away, 25-19.
The early win helped give the Lady Mounties even more confidence, as they seemed to feed off the very large crowd in attendance.
Philipsburg-Osceola went up 21-16 in the second set, before the Lady Rams rallied to cut the lead to 24-22.
All it took was an Eckberg timeout for the Lady Mounties to respond with a kill from Marlee Chutko to take the 25-22 win.
The communication between the Philipsburg-Osceola players never stopped, as each girl could be heard yelling encouragement to her teammates.
“That’s part of the success that they’ve had,” Eckberg said. “It’s the trust they have in each other and the camaraderie that they have.
“Tonight, they didn’t play nervous, other than a few points there at the end of the third game where it became real for them. We missed some serves then. But up until that point, they played real relaxed, and it just really showed out on the court.”
With two sets in hand, the Lady Mounties headed out on the court determined to finish the game in a sweep.
P-O played strong in the third set, and despite missing six serves in the game.
Scovern had two of her eight kills in the frame, while Showers had two of her six kills.
McKenzie Burge served up an ace for game point, and the celebration was on for the Lady Mounties, who captured their first crown since 2009.
“They all had to play their best games tonight,” Eckberg said. “Jordyn Walstrom made a save at the end that kept the ball alive and resulted in a point.
“Taylor Olenick made a great tip from the weakside, which we really didn’t plan on. It wasn’t our gameplan to run much outside because of the Roush girl in front of the weakside, but she had a nice tip.”
Scovern finished the night with nine service points, eight kills and five digs. Showers added six service points, six kills and six digs, while Burge had 17 assists and five service points.
Robertson tallied six service points and five digs, while Chutko had three kills. Emily Bush-Clark netted six service points, while Walstrom had two and Olenick had one.
“I never rule these girls out,” Eckberg said. “They’ve played club volleyball against teams from the Pittsburgh area, that they have no business playing against or competing, and they’ve beat them.
“I just want them to have fun now and enjoy the moment. But I don’t put anything past them at this point. I’m just really proud of them.”
The Lady Mounties improved to 30-5 overall. P-O plays WPIAL runner-up Indiana on Tuesday at Central Cambria. Match time is set for 7:30 p.m.