Chad Weight’s message remained the same during several of the timeouts he called during Wednesday night’s District 6 Class AAA Volleyball Championship.
The State College coach admonished his team.
The Lady Little Lions got the message at key points as they rallied to shake off feisty Hollidaysburg 23-25, 25-15, 25-11, 25-19 for their fourth consecutive district crown. State College (16-2) will face the runner-up from District 7 in the opening round of the PIAA Playoffs on Tuesday.
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Weight’s message remained a constant because he wasn’t always happy with what he was seeing from his club throughout the title match.
“When we’re not playing with energy and working hard, that’s when our faults come out,” Weight said. “As long as we keep working hard and have a lot of energy, good things happen for us. When we don’t do that, it’s not pretty.”
Hollidaysburg, which had been trounced 25-8, 25-5, 25-16 by the Lady Little Lions in last season’s title match, was in danger of another blowout when State College grabbed a 10-5 lead in the first set. The Lady Golden Tigers roared back behind the play of hitter Alex Scheel to take a 17-15 lead, but State College rallied. Kyla Irwin’s kill on an overpass gave the Lady Little Lions a 23-20 lead.
Hollidaysburg (10-6) regrouped and ripped off the next five points. Scheel closed out the set with a kill for a 25-23 triumph.
“We made some errors that we don’t typically make,” Weight said. “I think part of that was Hollidaysburg was shoving the ball back at us I don’t think we were prepared for that.”
State College fell behind 6-1 to open the second set before the rebounding behind the play of Sydney McNulty and Janae Moran. Moran had three kills in a five-pount run that put State College ahead for good at 13-11. McNulty had a pair of kills in a 7-1 run to close out the set. Irwin’s ace gave the Lady Little Lions a 25-15 triumph.
“It was all in our energy,” Moran said. “We had really good energy and that’s what brought all of our momentum back. That’s why we lost the first set.”
The Lady Little Lions completely dominated the third set. Leading 14-10, they ripped of an 11-1 run to close out the set. Irwin’s block closed out the 25-11 romp.
Hollidaysburg rebounded again in the fourth set, taking a 9-5 lead early. The Lady Golden Tigers were up 15-13 when Weight called a timeout. He admonished Moran to play better and his team to play harder.
State College won four straight points. After Hollidaysburg tied it at 17-17, the Lady Little Lions won four straight points to take control. Hollidaysburg got within 21-19, but State College closed with four straight points. A wide return touched off the celebration of another district crown.
“When we go into a timeout, we definitely come out playing stronger,” Moran said. “It definitely happened in the last set.”
“At the end of that last game, we really got after it,” Weight said. “Makenzie Sullivan made some spectacular plays in the back row.”
Hollidaysburg coach Ted Bloom, whose team ended a long drought by making the finals last season, showed progress.
“Last year, our girls were kind of stuck in the spotlight,” Bloom said. “They were awestruck of actually making it. Ultimately, they went through some struggles and they didn’t show up the best that they could. This year, we showed up and we at least gave them a good match.”
“Hollidaysburg played really well,” Weight said. “That’s the best that I’ve seen them play. They made us play. They did a lot of good things. ... They played harder than we did for a lot of the match. I don’t like that.”
Moran finished with 13 kills, 22 assists and six aces for the Lady Little Lions.
“We’ll play as well as Janae can play,” Weight said. “We ask a lot of her. She serves stuff. She has to set. She has to hit. ... Sometimes tonight, she struggled a little bit. My message to her was, ‘You’ve got to play better,’ because she is kind of the catalyst that gets things going for us.”
McNulty led State College with 14 kills and Irwin added 13. Scheel had a match-high 17 kills, but none of her teammates had more than a handful.
“It always makes a difference the more hitters you have,” said Bloom, whose team started four sophomores. “They definitely have three main hitters who they can count on to take a big swing and hit the ball.”
Irwin had four blocks, while Tara Neidigh added 20 digs. Taylor Kuruzovich had 19 assists.
The competition level now rachets up for the Lady Little Lions in the PIAAs.
“They know what they have to do, so it will be interesting,” Weight said.