The Philipsburg-Osceola volleyball team was toppled by Penn Cambria, 25-12, 16-25, 28-26 and 25-18 on Saturday afternoon in the District 6 Class AA title game at the Altoona Fieldhouse.
The Lady Mounties won the second set and took a huge lead in the third, but the Lady Panthers rallied back to take the four-set victory.
“We expected a tough match. I was a little disappointed with our nerves,” said P-O head coach Dave Eckberg. “We tried to not be nervous, but I think we were in the first game and that showed. A credit to our girls, we came back in games 2 and 3, we just had some uncharacteristic mental lapses in those games that kind of let Penn Cambria back in.
“We really had momentum in game 3 and we let them off the hook. And, that was tough to come back from.”
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The Lady Panthers took advantage of a shaky Lady Mounties defense in the first set, using two big service runs to win 25-12.
Philipsburg-Osceola bounced back in a big way in the second set, toppling Penn Cambria, 25-16.
But it was third set that seemed to swing the momentum heavily in the Lady Panthers’ favor.
The Lady Mounties took a 20-10 lead over the second-seeded Lady Panthers in that set, but Penn Cambria roared back, using an 11-point run by Karissa Buzzella to take a 21-20 advantage.
The two teams then traded several sideouts with P-O reaching game point twice.
But a ball the Lady Mounties couldn’t get back over the net, coupled by a kill from Tori Shingler that just nicked the inside of the inbounds line gave Penn Cambria the 28-26 win.
“We had them down in the third set and that really took the wind out of our sails when we lost that one,” said Eckberg. “I think we got down six or seven in the fourth. But I called a timeout and told the girls they did the same thing to us (coming back from a big deficit). We fought back, but we just had some plays on top of the net where we can match their height and athleticism.”
P-O got down 7-0 in the fourth set, but rallied to pull the game to 16-14.
However, the Lady Panthers rode the hitting of Shingler and captain Taylor Freeman the rest of the way, winning the set 25-18 to capture the district title.
Freeman finished the game with 16 kills, while Shingler added 14.
“I was proud of the kids,” Eckberg said. “We fought back and got it to two points. I told them it was almost a new game at that point. We just had those moments where people didn’t want to make a play. We kind of looked at each other. That hasn’t happened much this year, but it was one of those things we had to deal with.
“Penn Cambria played really well and I think we played well most of the match. There were just some runs where we didn’t use our best judgement.”
McKenzie Burge led the Lady Mounties with 29 assists and nine service points. Kylie Scovern tallied 11 kills and seven service points, while Emily Bush-Clark had 13 service points. Abby Showers added seven service points, while teammate Marlee Chutko notched seven kills.
Philipsburg-Osceola finished the season at 30-7 overall and 18-1 in match play.
Penn Cambria improved to 21-0 overall. The Lady Panthers face the WPIAL runner-up on Tuesday at Central Cambria High School at 8 p.m.