High school girls volleyball: Bald Eagle Area wins 1st district title

The Bald Eagle Area girls’ volleyball team celebrates its District 6 Class AA championship after beating Penn Cambria in five sets on Saturday in Altoona.
The Bald Eagle Area girls’ volleyball team celebrates its District 6 Class AA championship after beating Penn Cambria in five sets on Saturday in Altoona. CDT photo

Tylor Yarrison admitted to being nervous, but she knew what she had to do.

Jessica Bressler set the ball over to the left-side pin, and the senior outside hitter saw the opening. It wasn’t a thunderous swing, just something with a little touch that found a spot out of everyone’s reach in the middle of the court.

“I was so excited,” Yarrison said. “I can’t believe we won. This is the first time our school’s ever done it, and I can’t believe we were the team to do it, and I couldn’t believe I scored the last point. That was huge.”

Sealed by the last of Yarrison’s match-high 20 kills, Bald Eagle Area can claim its first District 6 volleyball title after rallying to beat Penn Cambria 20-25, 25-18, 25-21, 23-25, 15-11 Saturday afternoon in the Class AA final at Altoona Fieldhouse.

“It’s amazing,” said sophomore opposite Hannah Park, who added 16 kills. “I can’t even describe it. I don’t even know. It’s just awesome.”

BEA (17-5) will face Beaver from District 7 in the Pittsburgh area at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the first round of the PIAA tournament at Central Cambria High School in Ebensburg.

Adding to the cause for the Lady Eagles were Veelana Skripek’s 15 kills, Chelsea Eisenhuth’s seven blocks, Regan Dyke’s 30 digs and three aces, Yarrison’s 46 digs, Park’s 29 digs and Jessica Bressler’s 50 assists.

Riley Anderson’s 16 kills, Stefanie Madonna’s 13 kills, Casey Lee’s 10 kills and four blocks, Alyssa Montgomery’s 44 assists and two aces and Lily Krull’s 26 digs paced Penn Cambria.

Facing a winner-take-all fifth set, the Lady Eagles were fighting some jitters following an error-filled fourth frame.

“Definitely fighting butterflies,” Yarrison said. “We were just telling each other to stay calm and play volleyball. We play every day and we know how to play.”

The teams traded points all the way to an 8-8 tie in the fifth, when Eisenhuth put down a kill on an overpass to give BEA a lead it would never lose. A mishandled set and a block from Eisenhuth extended the margin to three points, and after an Eagle error, a Yarrison kill and a Panther error got BEA two points from the title at 13-9.

“They just tensed up,” Penn Cambria coach Leah Montgomery said. “Bald Eagle’s good. You’ve got to play.”

A BEA error and a Lee block of Yarrison sliced the margin to two points and prompted a timeout from coach Larry Campbell to settle his team.

“The seniors decided there was no big sister to bail them out,” Campbell said. “They had to go help themselves. I couldn’t be more proud of them right now.”

It set the stage for Yarrison, who ripped a swing off a blocker to set up match point, then tipped the ball into the middle of the Panther defense to wrap up the victory.

BEA was battling the nerves early in the match, scoring only seven points on their own terms in the first set.

“We really were afraid to make mistakes,” Campbell said. “That’s what happens in big games when kids aren’t used to being in that situation — they play tentative. Against a team like that, that has everything up, they basically wait for you to make errors.”

The Lady Eagles started to generate a lot more offense and dictate play in the second and third. Park was especially effective in those two sets, with 12 of her kills and an ace during those games.

“I love being set,” Park said. “A lot of right sides don’t always get set because it has to be a good pass to be set. Jessica does a really good job of getting the ball to me.”

But the errors returned in the fourth — with 12 for the Lady Eagles — as they dug themselves a hole. They trailed 14-7 but battled back to tie it at 15-15 after three straight Yarrison kills and another from Jenny Zimerman. Penn Cambria again raced ahead 19-15 and 23-19, but again BEA rallied to tie it after an Eisenhuth stuff and Penn Cambria error. But an Anderson kill and an Eagle hitting error gave the Panthers the final two points of the fourth set and forced the deciding fifth frame.

“We let them hang around, we think, because we had so many errors in all four of the sets prior to (the fifth),” Yarrison said. “That was our big thing. We just needed to stay calm, play our best volleyball and eliminate the errors that we were giving them.”

Having ousted top-seeded Huntingdon on the Bearcats’ floor two days earlier helped give the Lady Eagles a little more confidence in fighting through the emotional ebbs and flows.

“It was really close and we all were really nervous, and that’s what caused some of our errors,” Park said. “We’ve worked in this situation with Huntingdon and we knew how to come out of it and pull through.”