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Philipsburg-Osceola Volleyball Advances to State Championship for First Time

by on November 18, 2020 1:09 PM
Philipsburg, PA

The Philipsburg-Osceola’s girls’ volleyball team has been dominating all season, and there’s no reason for them to stop yet. The Lady Mounties still have one more match to play.

P-O defeated North Catholic 25-15, 25-20, 24-26, 25-22 in the PIAA Class 2A semifinals on Tuesday to earn a spot in the state championship match – a first for the program. Trinity of Camp Hill, the state's No. 2 team in Class 2A, will be on the other side of the net for the 1 p.m. match Saturday at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg.

The Lady Mounties (20-0) do not appear to be intimidated by anyone this postseason, earning their championship match ticket by dispatching the Trojans (18-1), the defending state champion and the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association’s top-ranked Class 2A team.

“Obviously the kids were very excited,” P-O coach Dave Eckberg said. “I think the fact that we certainly have not been afforded any luxuries by the bracket system this year made us feel even more vindicated. We feel we've had to play uphill at each of our state playoff matches due to the scheduling. But that has made winning feel even better.”

The Lady Mounties advanced with a quarterfinal win at No. 6 Maplewood, and against No. 7 Bald Eagle Area in the District 6 final.

Reese Hazelton was once again a force, notching 41 kills and 15 digs. There has been little doubt since about the midpoint of the regular season that P-O’s success would be tied to Hazelton. The 6-foot-1 freshman has put up numbers unlike any other high school volleyball player in the county. She has 442 kills this season, nine matches with 20 or more kills, including all of the Lady Mounties’ five postseason matches. In that stretch, she has 179 kills, for an average of 9.4 kills per set. She also had 40 in a 3-1 win over Bald Eagle Area for district title and 38 against Maplewood.

P-O broke to an early lead in the first set on the Trojans’ home floor in Cranberry Township, and didn’t lose focus when the team hit a few bumps along the way, thanks to a relentless defense that covered the court and kept points alive.

Late in the third, the Lady Mounties trailed 23-20 before rattling off four straight points, the last on a Hazelton kill, to earn match point. They were unable to pick up one more point, however, then quickly fell behind 4-0 and 7-1 to open the fourth.

“We sure would have liked to close that third game out, but credit to North Catholic, they started to find their stride,” Eckberg said. “Then the rough start to game four seemed to shake our confidence a bit. We started to get a little tentative and, I think, a little tired.”

They managed to knot it at 9-9 and took command of the frame with a 5-0 run for a 20-16 lead, capped by a Paige Jarrett ace. Jarrett then locked up the win with a cross-court kill.

“Being able to square it up at 9-9 gave us a shot in the arm,” Eckberg said. “I can’t say that anything in particular turned it around other than we kept digging balls and by extending plays were able to muster some points.”

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