The Port Allegany volleyball team is one match away from repeating last year’s unbeaten run through the North Tier League, with only Thursday night’s opponent, second-place Coudersport, still in position to stop them.
The Gators (16-1, 13-0) headed south to St. Marys on Saturday, claiming the 12-team Elk County Catholic Tournament title with a win over the host Crusaders in the finals. Port began the day a perfect 10-0 in pool play, defeating Cameron County (25-10, 25-20), Redbank Valley (25-18, 25-20), St. Marys (25-16, 25-15), Smethport (25-19, 25-18), and Johnsonburg (25-15, 25-13) to earn a bye into the semifinals, where they downed Coudy (25-20, 25-17).
“This set up the second tournament playoff meeting between Port and ECC,” coach Sharon Daniels wrote in a recap to the Reporter Argus, noting their previous matchup at the Sheffield tourney, which the Gators also won. “Again our match went three games. It was a battle right down to the last kill with Port squeaking out a 30-32, 25-20, 15-13 win. The first game was about as intense as it can get. This was a game that neither team wanted to lose and was evident with the continued aggressive hitting and tight defense played by both. Passes off service receive and defense were much more controlled today. Our offense was varied and forced ECC to move. Hitters adjusted very well to where we needed to put the ball. To (ECC’s) credit they blocked well, covered the block, were quick on defense and pounded the ball at us; to our defense’s credit, our block became a factor and our passers made the adjustments necessary to win. We covered their block well also and net play was a huge factor in the speed of the match. Every player was assigned a role and each rose to the occasion. Without the contribution of every athlete we would not have won today.”
Daniels noted the play of Jenny Shelley (51 assists, 7 kills in the playoff rounds), Rachel Taylor (29 kills, 7 blocks), Becca Lathrop (17 kills), Ashley Woodruff (9 kills), Brooke Roys (8 kills, 8 blocks), and Jena Young (6 kills), adding, “Amber Naylor and Hannah Ernst gave us an entire day of excellent passes. Bethy Bernardi and Taylor Causer provided a change-up in our service line and both played an effective back row as well.”
On Tuesday night, Port stayed perfect in the NTL with a 25-13, 25-22, 25-10 win at Oswayo Valley, setting up Thursday night’s showdown with the Falcons (13-2, 12-1) in the Gator gym. If Coudy wins, the two squads will square off in a tiebreaker to determine the league champ before both teams enter the District 9 playoffs.