Jessica Bressler ran up the stairs with tears streaming down her face and gave her mother a huge hug, a scene that was repeated throughout the entire gymnasium for the Bald Eagle Area girls’ volleyball team members.
The Lady Eagles had just pulled off a giant upset in defeating No. 1 Huntingdon, 26-24, 13-25, 20-25, 25-19, 15-12, to advance the the District 6 Class AA finals. Fifth-seeded BEA will face No. 10 Penn Cambria, which knocked off No. 6 Westmont-Hilltop, at 2 p.m. Saturday at Alttona High School for the district crown.
Bald Eagle Area rallied from a 2-1 deficit to pull out the match.
The Lady Eagles got off to a hot start.The first set featured several lead changes before BEA pulled away at the end. The two teams were tied at 24-24, but a Huntingdon error gave BEA a set point. The Lady Eagles converted as Jenny Zimmerman made a dig to set up Vee Stripek, who pounded down the spike for the game-winner.
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In the second set, Huntingdon came alive. Their offense scorched BEA, which couldn’t get back their previous rhythm. The Lady Eagles committed several service errors and had miscommunication as Huntingdon rolled to a 25-13 victory.
Huntingdon’s big outside hitter Mackenzie Garner dominated the third set. Garner, a senior who BEA coach Larry Campbell said is one of the best players in the district. The Lady Eagles fell behind early but rallied to within 13-12 before the Bearcats pulled away behind Garner. BEA got as close as 23-20 before the Lady Bearcats closed out the set.
Before beginning the fourth set, Campbell reminded his team, “You have one set left in your season, for some of you, you have one set left in your career.”
The inspired Lady Eagles destroyed of the Lady Bearcat defense and raced to a 12-5 lead. In the closing points of the set, Huntingdon’s attempt of a comeback was stopped by killer spikes by Yarrison and multiple blocks from Chelsea Eisenhuth. The Lady Eagles send the match to a fifth set with a set 25-19 victory.
The last set had every single audience member on their feet. Student sections were trading remarks as parents sat on edge during every play.
BEA was behind 6-4 early in the race to 15, but the Bearcats became stuck at 7 points. The Lady Eagles were then able to score five consecutive points, taking and increasing their lead to 10-7. This offensive edge is what would eventually give them the win. As Huntingdon struggled to keep up, they gave up points due to service errors that eventually gave Bald Eagle the winning point at 15-12.
Campbell praised Katie Flick’s serving efforts for keeping them competitive.
Campbell also noted that Yarrison, who finished with 14 kills, “decided to step up and make a few plays, and that was huge.”
The unsung hero of the match was undoubtedly 5-foot-3 setter Jessica Bressler.
“I don’t know if you guys appreciate just how great our setter does at keeping us in consistent,” Campbell said. “Everyone watching will see big aces and big kills, but our little kid Bressler, she kept us in consistent all night in getting us hittable balls, even when our passes were off target. She did a great job at getting herself all squared up and getting our hitters opportunities to score.”
Bressler finished with 17 digs and 28 assists as she scrambled all over the court. “I’m not tired at all,” Bressler said of her busy evening. “Oh my gosh, I got beat up a couple times, but it was totally worth it.”