Volleyball: Gators still unbeaten in NTL, claim Sheffield Tourney crown

As the North Tier League volleyball season hit its midpoint last week, Port Allegany continued its quest for a second straight undefeated run through the league. The Gators held serve on Thursday night, following last Tuesday’s thrilling five-set win at Coudersport with a 25-16, 25-13, 25-14 victory over Northern Potter as Jena Young (22 service points, 4 kills), Rachel Taylor (15 service points, 12 kills, 7 blocks), Ashley Woodruff (6 service points, 11 kills, 7 digs) and Jenny Shelley (22 assists) led the charge.

“The girls kept their intensity throughout the match. They were focused, passing well to set up the swing,” coach Sharon Daniels wrote in an email to the Reporter Argus.

Stepping out of the NTL for am 11-team tournament at Sheffield on Saturday morning, the Gators got off to a slow start without two of their top players, but rebounded to claim the tourney title with a championship-match win over Cranberry.

Coach Daniels’ post-match report:

“We started the day short starters Rachel Taylor, Ashley Woodruff (SATs). The line-up for the first round of pool play saw one senior, four juniors, two sophomores and a freshman.

“We dropped two to Sheffield early 6-11, 9-11, then changed the line-up starting Brianna Bell (freshman JV, middle hitter) in the right side blocking position. Becca Lathrop had to fill the middle hitter position left vacant by Taylor. Jena Young, Amber Naylor and Rikki Rennells played their regular strong side positions and filled in for Woodruff. Bethy Bernardi played the back row opposite Brianna while our lone senior, Jenny Shelley, directed from the court. They gelled much better and we went on to defeat Rocky Grove, 11-5 and 11-4, then faced Oil City for the last match up of Round 1 and defeated them 11-2 and 12-10 (after trailing 10-6). Becca Lathrop was offensively and defensively sound. Roys, Bell, Young and Shelley added to the front row defense, blocking very well.

“The second round of pool play seeded the top four teams against one another. We had edged Youngsville on points for the fourth position in the top seeded pool. At this point we were playing with more confidence but were anxiously awaiting the arrival of Taylor and Woodruff. We came right out and split with Sheffield after having lost two to them earlier. ECC defeated us pretty easily 11-4, 11-8. Just as we finished against ECC our seniors arrived in the gym. We had nearly an hour wait before meeting Cranberry for our last match of the second round. To say the least, they were speechless as Ashley and Rachel joined the warm-up hitting drill. Their speed and strength served to pump up the entire team and everyone was swinging impressively. We dropped Cranberry 11-4 and then had a rotation of poor service receive, dug a hole and lost the second game 6-11.

“After another long break before the playoff seeds were posted, we faced Brockway, one game to 21. The team played very strong, passing well and hitting aggressively (21-8). Our next match was a rematch with ECC who had just defeated NTL rival Oswayo Valley. We won that match, 15-8, 11-15 (again service receive was our nemesis) and finished with a 15-11 score. Cranberry had defeated Eisenhower and had been waiting on the other court while we finished.

“The format now was best two out of three, first two to 25, third game to 15. We came out slow and trailed as much as 13-8 before slowly gaining momentum. We finally gained the lead when we arrived at 20. Our blockers made adjustments and our back row slid line on their outsides and hard cross court on their middles and brought up everything. Final of the first game, 25-23. We definitely had the momentum at this point. At 20-9 in the second game it was apparent that the Gators were going to earn the trophy. The final score, 25-16.

“Jenny Shelley was solid all day. She set well, making effective decisions, was aggressive on offense and was defensively sound. Becca Lathrop was a key player and our ‘go to’ hitter throughout pool play. Jena Young also stepped up her game swinging effectively and moving well on defense. Brooke Roys adjusted well to her blocking assignment. She forced the opponents to go around her helping our defense immensely. Rachel Taylor and Ashley Woodruff both immediately made their presence felt in the playoffs combining for 27 kills and even more importantly raised the level of intensity of the entire team.

“Other than one lull in service receive, the girls played consistently throughout the playoffs for 6 games straight. Service accuracy was impressive at 97/105. It was definitely our best all-around play of the season thus far.”

The Gators (11-0, 8-0 going into Tuesday’s match at Austin) return to their home court on Thursday to host Otto-Eldred, then hit the road twice next week for matches against Smethport and Cameron County.

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