High School Sports

High school girls volleyball: Philipsburg-Osceola rallies to beat Huntingdon

Senior Elizabeth Robertson, center, leads her Philipsburg-Osceola teammates in celebration after the Lady Mounties knocked off Huntingdon 29-27, 25-22, 18-25, 25-17 on Thursday.
Senior Elizabeth Robertson, center, leads her Philipsburg-Osceola teammates in celebration after the Lady Mounties knocked off Huntingdon 29-27, 25-22, 18-25, 25-17 on Thursday. CDT photo

McKenzie Burge and Elizabeth Robertson couldn’t help but shed a tear or two.

The two Philipsburg-Osceola seniors had just played their final volleyball match on their home floor and this was one they’ll treasure.

The Lady Mounties, fueled by a monumental first-set comeback, knocked off Huntingdon 29-27, 25-22, 18-25, 25-17 before a frenzied pink-clad crowd on breast cancer awareness night Thursday.

“This was absolutely amazing,” said Robertson, who had a game-high 23 digs while facing blasts from Huntingdon’s Mackenzie Garner. “It’s a moment I’ll never forget.”

The first set comeback was certainly one for the ages. Huntingdon (15-3), which had not lost in its first 12 Mountain League matches of the season, won 11 of the first 13 points in the set and led by as many as 11 points (20-9).

The Lady Bearcats led 24-15 and were on the brink of closing out the set when the Lady Mounties pulled off a minor miracle.

With Garner in the back row, P-O ripped off nine consecutive points on Morgan Thompson’s serve. Her service winner tied the score at 24-24.

Huntingdon and P-O each had chances to close out the set from there. With the score tied at 27-27, the Lady Bearcats had two hitting errors that gave P-O the set and the momentum.

“Everybody just pulled together and we all did our jobs,” said Burge, who led the Lady Mounties with 19 assists and had six kills from her setter spot. “We did the best we could. Everybody played their parts.”

“I have no idea,” Robertson said of how they pulled off the comeback. “I think we just had it in us, just the passion to go out and do it. That got our momentum up.”

The Lady Mounties rode that wave to a win in the second set, though they trailed again early. Huntingdon grabbed a 12-8 lead and led 15-12 before P-O again rallied, this time on Robertson’s serve. Robertson had two aces in a run of seven consecutive points to push the Lady Mounties to a 19-15 lead.

P-O led 24-19 before Huntingdon rallied for three points, but Mollie Maguire stuffed a spike attempt to give the Lady Mounties the set.

P-O coach Dave Eckberg said his team has shown a penchant for the rally this season.

“They had comebacks at Central,” Eckberg said. “They came back two or three games against Bald Eagle when they were here. I think it’s just experience being in that position.”

Garner, a 6-foot powerhouse, made sure the Lady Eagles didn’t rally in the third set. She pounded down nine of her game-high 30 kills in the set as the Lady Bearcats won 25-18.

“She’s an absolutely amazing athlete,” Burge said. “She’s by far the best in the Mountain League. There’s not many people out there that can stop her.”

One was Robertson, who dug out several of the rockets.

“Oh my gosh, she’s an amazing player,” the libero said. “I honestly get scared.”

“We get a lot done through Liz,” Burge said. “We’re not a tall team at all. Since we we don’t have a tall block, Liz saves our butts so many times. She’s the all-time digs leader at P-O and it shows.”

The final set was nip-and-tuck throughout until Sadie Granville got hot in the final stages. The teams were tied at 17 when Granville and Maguire combined for a block to give P-O the lead for good. Granville then reeled off four of her team-high eight kills as the Lady Mounties closed out the set.

“We just worked on shot placement with her,” Eckberg said of Granville. “She’s a little on the smaller side and she just has to mix her shots up. It started to come through in Game 4.”

Huntingdon coach Olivia Hallahan said her squad never quite recovered from the first-set collapse.

“Tonight that definitely was the difference-maker,” Hallahan said. “We had them up and were putting it to them. Then you let a lead go. We’ve been struggling with that. It’s happened to us a couple of times this year. We just need to make sure we finish better.

“It was great volleyball and Philipsburg is a great team. Despite their height, they are a digging machine and defense wins games.”

Both teams said the result was important with the District 6 Class AA Tournament looming.

“I think this gives us really good momentum going into districts knowing that we can beat them,” Burge said. “If we can beat them, there’s not many teams out there that we can’t beat.”

“They’ll bounce back from it,” Hallahan said of her team. “It hurts, but it’s better to hurt now then later on down the road.”

And the result was a perfect sendoff for Burge and Robertson.

“They keep the wheels on quite often for us,” Eckberg said. “That’s their job and I probably taken it for granted sometimes how much they do for us. Obviously tonight you could see how much we needed them and they came through.”

They’ve played an even bigger role since fellow senior Abby Showers could not play this fall following shoulder surgery.

“Injuries have been tough on us and those two have had to shoulder a lot more responsibility than I thought they were going to,” Eckberg said. “They just embody what the program is all about. They’re not physically menacing kids, but they work harder than anyone I’ve every seen. They make plays when you don’t expect them to make plays. That’s what I like my team to be about and they’re the best representation I could ask for that.”