Much like the regular season, the start wasn’t the best for the State College boys’ volleyball team, but there was another strong finish.
The Little Lions recovered from an error-filled first set to sweep past McDowell 29-27, 25-18, 25-13 in a PIAA District 6-8-9-10 Sub-Regional on Friday.
The win puts State College (9-6), which began the season losing five of its first seven matches, into the first round of the PIAA Class AAA tournament against Norwin on Wednesday at a site and time to be announced. Norwin was swept 3-0 by North Allegheny on Thursday in the District 7 final.
The Little Lions piled up the unforced errors in the first set and trailed 22-18 before finally finding their game, rallying for the 29-27 set win.
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“It’s a long ride out here,” coach Kim-Li Kimel said. “You could tell they were a little bit stunned to come out. McDowelll, they were on fire. They were aggressive, they were excited. It took us a good bit to even look comfortable on the court.”
One State College was comfortable, everything fell into place and the Little Lions took over the match, even building a lead as large as 20-6 in the third set.
“Once we made that turn, we just blasted through the rest of the match,” Kimel said. “I don’t think the scores (in the second and third sets) reflect the match wasn’t even that close. ... It was a really, really solid performance on our end.”
The team used its three-headed offensive monster, with 10 kills for Deniz Demirci and nine each for Clark Handel and Andrew Groves.
“(Sophomore setter) Noah Christie had been struggling with some of his contacts setting,” Kimel said. “He stepped in there and he had an excellent, consistent game setting. He made all the right choices. He modified the offense, he made the right matchups in blocking. ... At the end of the day we were much more balanced than McDowell.”
Christie finished with 17 assists.
Groves also had a solid all-around match, with the nine kills to go with six blocks, 13 digs and 16 assists.
“Andrew Groves had probably the best night he’s had all season,” Kimel said.
Demirci and Christie each had a pair of aces, Handel also had two blocks and Parker Thompson collected 15 digs.