Girls’ volleyball | Panthers upset P-O in district quarterfinals

The Philipsburg-Osceola volleyball team has had its share of battles with Penn Cambria in the District 6 Class AA playoffs and Tuesday’s quarterfinal bout was no different.

Unfortunately for the Lady Mounties, the upstart Lady Panthers ended their season with a 3-1 (25-18, 18-25, 25-20, 25-22) win.

P-O (23-9) had tenth-seeded Penn Cambria on the ropes in the fourth game, looking to force a deciding game on its homecourt, but the Lady Panthers responded from a pair of 5-point deficits late in the game to pull off the upset.

The Lady Mounties, the tournament’s second seed, held advantages of 19-14 and 22-17 before Penn Cambria rallied for the win.

“When the play got out of system,” said P-O head coach Dave Eckberg, “they were a little smarter than we were. We pressed a little bit and made some uncharacteristic errors. In a close game like that, that was the difference.’’

From the first set, the Lady Mounties struggled to get their offense moving against a Lady Panther squad fresh off an upset of seventh seeded Bedford on Monday night.

P-O missed its first five kill attempts and weren’t able to match Penn Cambria’s play at the net.

Mollie Maguire paced the Lady Mounties with 10 kills, while Sadie Granville added eight.

“We had a lot of errors,” Eckberg said. “I know at one point in Game 1, they had 14 points and 11 of their points came off of our errors - service, hitting and ballhandling errors. You just can’t win that way.”

Elizabeth Robertson and McKenzie Burge played their final games in P-O uniforms.

Robertson had a gargantuan night defensively, registering 41 digs, while Burge dished out 24 assists and paced the Lady Mounties with 11 service points.

“They give so much out there,” said Eckberg of his seniors. “Their sweat is on the floor, their blood is on the floor and their tears are on the floor. They’re great kids and I’ll miss being around them as much as I will coaching them.”

Penn Cambria will face Westmont Hilltop in a semifinal on Thursday at Huntingdon. The Lady Hilltoppers downed Ligonier Valley in four games prior to the Lady Panthers’ victory over P-O.

Huntingdon, the tournament’s top seed, rallied to down Forest Hills, and will face Bald Eagle Area in the other semifinal.

“If we can take this excitement (into the semifinal),” Penn Cambria head coach Leah Montgomery said, “I think they can do anything. It’s always a good game between us (and P-O). I really thought we were going to a fifth game because I thought we were done.

“You know how it is - one kill can change the momentum. Luckily for us, it was on our side this time. Those last five points we were passing, we were setting and we were hitting.”