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BEA, State College Girls' Volleyball Head to PIAA Quarterfinals

by and on November 08, 2019 12:15 PM

Yet another chapter is in the books for the Bald Eagle Area and State College girls’ volleyball teams, and their seasons roll on to the PIAA quarterfinals.

Both teams wrapped up District 6 titles on Nov. 2, then won their first-round state tournament matches on Tuesday.

“It feels great to get through this game,” BEA senior outside hitter Grace Hugar said after the Lady Eagles swept Avonworth 3-0. “We just had to get through this game, then we can grind the whole way.”

The defending Class 2A state champions won their opening match close to home — earning the sweep at Bellefonte Area High School. State College prevailed in a tough 3-2 match against Canon-McMillan in Pittsburgh in Class 4A.

The wins followed District 6 triumphs, with the Lady Eagles (20-0) hoisting the trophy for a third straight year, and it’s nine in a row for the Lady Little Lions (19-0).


The Lady Eagles had two impressive sets sandwiched around an inconsistent second frame in their 25-10, 25-23, 25-14 victory against Avonworth (15-7). The middle frame saw the Antelopes up 23-22, but BEA rattled off the final three points on a Madison Rockey kill and two from Hugar.

The Lady Eagles used a 7-0 burst midway through the third set to take control and set up the win. The first set was fairly close until BEA took 13 of the final 15 points. The first set was highlighted by six aces for Madison Eckley, including three during the closing run.

“It’s a hard, flat serve, it moves really well,” coach Larry Campbell said. “If you don’t get out in the first two (serves), she starts feeling pretty good about herself and the pace starts picking up, it becomes more and more difficult.”

The team served up 14 aces for the match, with Hugar and Rockey each delivering three to follow Eckley’s total.

“Those were good to get our energy up,” said Hugar, who led the Lady Eagles with seven kills. “Once our energy’s up, then we just keep going.”

Elita Brown, Katelyn Smitchko and Taylor Kilmer each added six kills and Lacee Barnhart added five to go with 10 digs. Rockey gave out 31 assists, Smitchko posted three blocks and Lexi Skripek had 18 digs, surpassing 1,000 career digs during the match. She is the first Lady Eagle to reach the milestone, to the best of Campbell’s knowledge, and follows 3,000 assists for Rockey and 1,200 kills for Hugar achieved earlier in the year.

Makenna Gavin’s 13 kills led Avonworth, but she only had one in the final set as BEA pulled away.

“I think our serving did a good job of pushing them out of system a lot,” Campbell said. “It took her away, which was a big thing.”

BEA will meet Pittsburgh North Catholic in the quarterfinals on Saturday at Forest Hills.

BEA got quite the scare on its way to a fourth district crown in the past six seasons, dropping the first two sets before rallying to beat Central Cambria 25-27, 23-25, 25-17, 25-9, 15-2 at the Altoona Fieldhouse on Nov. 2. It was the first time all season the Lady Eagles had faced a 2-0 deficit.

“After that second set we were like, ‘We have to win – there’s no other option,’” said Hugar, whose team lost only three sets all season outside of tournaments. “Eckley got some (service) runs and that got our confidence up, and then we kept going, kept grinding.”

Hugar had an all-around day with 18 kills, 13 digs and three aces, while Kilmer added 14 kills and three blocks and Smitchko posted a dozen kills. Barnhart had nine kills and 20 digs, Rockey recorded 59 assists and four blocks, Eckley served up seven aces and Skripek picked up 36 digs.

Two days earlier in the semifinals, BEA dispatched West Shamokin 25-13, 25-21, 25-24 behind Hugar’s nine kills and eight digs, Kilmer’s nine kills, Brown’s three aces, Rockey’s 31 assists and 15 digs, Barnhart’s 10 digs and Smitchko’s three blocks. BEA put up a wall with eight blocks as a team.


The Lady Little Lions nearly saw their season end in their PIAA opener, but dug out of a big hole in a 27-25, 15-25, 22-25, 25-21, 15-11 win at Pittsburgh North Catholic High School. Having already fallen behind 2-1 in sets, State College trailed by six in the fourth set but found their game.

“In the fourth set they had us dead in the water,” said coach Chad Weight, whose team had dropped only one set since Oct. 2, and played only one five-set match all year. “It was our aggression, especially at the service line … These kids are gritty. It would’ve been easy to just quit, especially down six early. But that’s not part of their mindset (to give up). I’m really proud of their efforts.”

Leading the Lady Little Lions were Kacy Sekunda with 19 kills and 22 assists, Vanessa McGhee with 10 kills and three blocks and Sarah Neely with 24 assists and four aces. Defensively, Kate Lachendro had 12 digs and Ariana Angus added nine.

“We had to keep our foot on the pedal,” Weight said.

“The fifth set was the only time I saw the CM body language change.”

The matchup with the Scottish Highlanders (17-3) was a surprise after their upset of North Allegheny in the District 7 finals. The Tigers are No. 1 in the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association Class 4A weekly poll and the defending state champions. The PIAA bracket slots were set before the season, and had the District 6 champion as the only 4A district winner forced to play its first round match on a court outside its district and against another district champion. If North Allegheny had won on Nov. 2, the match would have featured the state’s No. 1 and 3 teams meeting in the PIAA first round.

Instead, they will meet in the quarterfinals at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday at Forest Hills .

“We want them,” Weight said. “Win or lose, we want to play them.”

The Lady Little Lions continued their domination of District 6 by sweeping Altoona 25-14, 25-11, 25-15 in the finals on Nov. 2 in Tyrone. Sekunda put down nine kills along with 11 assists and six digs, and Lachendro also had nine kills along with a pair of aces to lead the way. SNeely handed out 13 assists, and the defense got two blocks from Claire Jordan, and five digs apiece for Angus and Jacqui Gordon.

“We did what we needed to do,” Weight said. “We may have lost a little focus in the third (set).”

State College put away Williamsport 25-5, 25-4, 25-20 in the Oct. 30 semifinals thanks to 25 service aces. Sekunda led the barrage from the service line with 10, to go with nine assists, while five kills apiece were delivered by Lachendro, Arnold and Elna Spielvogel. McGhee had two blocks and Neely distributed eight assists.

State College's Kacy Sekunda (7) takes a swing against Central Dauphin on Oct. 14. The Lady Little Lions defeated Canon-McMillan on Nov. 5 to advance to the PIAA quarterfinals on Nov. 9. Photo by Tim Weight/For the Gazette

This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

Gordon Brunskill
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