PAHS season in review: volleyball

The 2015 campaign has been a roller-coaster ride for the Port Allegany volleyball team, but the Lady Gators completed their season on a positive note last week with a four-match winning streak to finish the year at .500 (10-10, 9-7 North Tier League).

“The girls certainly rose to the occasion at the end of the season,” coach Sharon Daniels wrote in an email to the Reporter Argus. “We had a rough go of it from the midway mark after losing Hannah Lathrop to an injury. We made a few adjustments and brought up a freshman to fill the role. Kierra Keck was definitely up for the challenge and worked so hard to compete. Her job was to block and block she did!

We moved Bri Bell back to outside (where she belonged) after playing middle the first half of the season. She was a trooper and carried a tremendous weight for the team. We filled the secondary middle position by running our setter, Mira Terrette, out of the middle. For a setter to block three positions while setting every pass is pretty amazing and Mira performed so well. She ended the season as the team’s leading blocker . . . It is completely unorthodox but we had to find a way to win and we found it!”

The Lady Gators closed out the year by sweeping the season series against Oswayo Valley (25-9, 20-25, 25-22, 25-22), Cameron County (25-17, 25-20, 25-12), and Austin (25-6, 25-14, 25-11), while celebrating Senior Night by avenging an earlier loss at Smethport with a 25-22, 25-23, 20-25, 25-22 win over the Lady Hubbers on Wednesday night.

“We played well against O-E and that play continued against Oswayo. We finally played consistently sound ball against Cameron County, Smethport and Austin,” Daniels wrote. “Pride was definitely in the works against Smethport. Coaching them last Wednesday evening was what every coach hopes for. Every skill we have worked on was executed by every player. I think it would be safe to say that the crowd got their money’s worth. We won jousts and ran quicks against a much bigger opponent. Makenzie Burr (eight kills, 23 digs) and McKaila Daniels (22 digs) passed lights out. Bri (16 kills, 15 digs) and Mira (seven kills, 35 assists, five blocks) filled their roles with confidence. Morgan Greeley and Kayla Sprankle served and defended well. Our four freshman, Keck (seven kills, three blocks), Erin Stauffer, Jenna Sprankle and Kayla Pesock performed like seasoned players. The team played controlled but not cautious. It was the most consistent ball we had played all season.”

The team is rounded out with Makayla Hults, Teddi Kaple, Savannah Gray and Giovanna Bruno, with Bell, Daniels, and Bruno the only seniors on a young roster.

“Without the contribution of all of our players we would not have experienced the success that we did,” Daniels wrote. “Due to a number of factors, we opted not to enter the state playoffs, but certainly had a memorable season.”

PAHS Fall Sports: Week 1 notes

Last Friday’s dress rehearsal at Gator Field went off without a hitch, as a decent amount of observers checked out the new-and-vastly-improved bleachers while Port High scrimmaged Elk County Catholic under the lights.

“There’s a lot of curiosity and interest in things,” athletic director Dan Stavisky said.

The old wood-and-steel stands, part of the landscape for more than 40 years, had become a legitimate safety concern as the school’s maintenance department tried to keep up with replacing splintered and worn-out boards. There are no such worries with the aluminum model: With handrails on slip-resistant steps, a ramp for handicapped access, fencing around a camera deck which runs the full length of the much-larger pressbox – a far cry from when radio and television crews used to climb onto the slanted roof of the original to broadcast games, and the only access to the second-floor coaches’ boxes was via a ladder leading up through a hole in the floor – and no open spaces to the ground below, the structure should serve the school’s needs for many years to come.

On the night of the scrimmage, a sprinkler soaked a large patch of fresh green sod in the corner of the end zone near the concession stand, where Mike Kallenborn of Pine Valley Landscaping was called in to deal with a drainage problem that had bubbled up to the surface. But with that and a few other late odds and ends taken care of, Stavisky feels that everything should be in order for Port Allegany’s official introduction to “Friday Night Lights.” The Gators kick off at 7 p.m. against the Athens Wildcats, a Class AA team from District 4 which replaced Johnsonburg on the schedule.

“Definitely a different environment,” said Mike Bodamer, the coach of the two-time defending Allegheny Mountain League and District 9 champions. “Hopefully we’ll get some more people to the games. Even when we’ve had good years, Saturday afternoon is still awful tough to get people to come to games – there are a lot of things to do on the weekends. High school football is without a doubt Friday night; it’s good to bring it here finally. We’ll see how it goes. It will definitely save the end of August, early September heat games where we’re all dying of heat exhaustion. That will definitely be nice.”

“It’s good for our kids to have good support at the games. The more fans, the more excited the kids are to play,” Stavisky agreed. “It will be exciting. There will be some adjustments, but we’re ready to go.”

***

Both Gator soccer teams will also be in action this weekend, with the girls heading to the Bradford Tournament on Friday afternoon and the boys opening with a non-league home game against Coudersport at 10 a.m. Saturday morning.

The boys’ game is one of three additions to the schedule, along with a third game against Smethport on Oct. 10 and a trip to Wellsville (N.Y.) on Oct. 15, to give them the regular-season maximum of 18 games.

“I like having a full schedule. My opinion is, you don’t get better by sitting at home,” head coach Aaron Clark said. “I told Dan to give us a game against anyone in the state, or even in New York state, and we’d go and play them. I didn’t care if it was the state champs.”

***

Like the football team, both the boys soccer and volleyball squads are coming off back-to-back league championships. The Lady Gators travel to Portville next Tuesday for their season opener, before beginning their North Tier League title defense at Smethport on Thursday. Tuesday also marks the beginning of the cross country schedule, when the Gators and new coach Jeanette Burleson travel to Coudersport.

***

The Port golf teams were the first fall sport to swing into action, with the girls dropping a 39-16 match at Bradford last Tuesday. Debbie Andrus led the Gators with a 61, Hannah Buchsenschutz shot a 71, Kaylee Ernst 76, and Alysa Dickinson 78.

Gator spikers fall in state playoff opener

Maybe it was when Port Allegany sophomore Brooke Roys stuffed Greensburg Central Catholic star Shannon Hurley at the net, then hammered home a kill of her own on the next volley. Or maybe it was when the Gators’ own big hitter, Rachel Taylor, followed a huge spike with back-to-back tip-ins to give Port a two-point lead late in the third game.

Pick your own highlight, but the District 7 (WPIAL) champion and No. 2-ranked Class A team in the state found itself in a battle with the District 9 runners-up.

“You know something’s happening,” Port coach Sharon Daniels said, “when the teams warming up for the next match stop to come over and watch.”

A late surge gave the Centurions (19-1) the win in that game and a 25-17, 25-18, 25-22 straight-set victory in Tuesday night’s PIAA playoff opener at North Allegheny High School, but the Gators (20-4) didn’t make it easy for them.

“This time of year, you have to think that everybody’s going to give you a match. That’s what we have to anticipate,” GCC coach Heather Meyer said.

Though Meyer’s squad is the one moving on, Daniels saw no cause for disappointment in the Gators’ performance.

“We matched up well on paper and we matched up as well on the court. Their D1-destined player has nothing on Rachel Taylor,” she said of Hurley, who’s already accepted a scholarship to play at Winthrop University next season. “Once we adjusted to the much quicker pace of play we were in all three sets. I thought for sure we had the third match. The passers were effectively getting the ball to Jenny (Shelley), who got the ball exactly where we needed it. She and Rachel combined for five or six kills in a row and we had them down 20-18.”

Shelley led the Gators with 8 service points (1 ace) and added 21 assists and 5 kills, while Taylor matched Hurley swing-for-swing – the sound of their booming spikes echoing throughout the North Allegheny gym – to finish with 16 kills, 5 service points (2 aces) and 2 blocks.

While the two four-year starters paced Port’s offense, the rest of the roster showed no sign of jitters in their first trip to the PIAA playoffs, with Daniels mentioning everyone in her post-match recap.

“Brooke Roys (4 kills, 2 blocks) stepped up big tonight,” she said. “Becca Lathrop (6 kills, 1 block) made her presence known in the third game with a hit rivaling Rachel’s. Ashley Woodruff, as she has all season, swung aggressively, causing mistakes that then set up our offense for the kill. Jena Young (6 points, 1 ace) moved to every ball and swung aggressively. Amber Naylor passed off the serve so well tonight. She played a tough backrow.

“Taylor Causer (6 points, 2 aces) and Bethy Bernardi (5 points, 1 ace) combined for 11 service points, the only errors coming with aggressive placement. They served smart and caused a number of free balls on which we capitalized. Rikki Rennels saw time on strong side and had a nice kill in the second set. Hannah Ernst stepped in three positions and passed well off the serve. Her defense improved with each set.”

Hurley led GCC with 17 kills, 8 points (1 ace) and a block, with fellow six-footers Leah Bisignani (7 kills, 1 block) and Ashley Scalise (6 kills) also adding to the offense and Rachel Moore (9 points, 4 aces) and Emma Dickson (9 points, 2 aces) serving well.

The Centurions move on to face another WPIAL Catholic school, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, in the second round after the Chargers dispatched D-6 champ Penns Manor 25-8, 25-18, 25-18. Clarion also won its PIAA opener, 25-18, 25-19, 25-21, over Bishop Canevin to advance to a matchup against D-10’s Maplewood in a battle of district champions.

While the Gators finish the year at 20-4, Daniels sees both plenty of reasons to be proud of their 2012 campaign and potential for more success in the seasons ahead.

“We are going to sorely miss our three seniors,” she said, “but it was exciting to see five juniors and three sophomores with substantial playing time in a state playoff match!”

***

Daniels also announced the Gators’ representatives on the North Tier League All-Star teams, with league Most Valuable Player Jenny Shelley, Rachel Taylor (last year’s MVP) and Becca Lathrop all being named to the first team and Ashley Woodruff and Brooke Roys earning second-team honors. Daniels was named Coach of the Year following Port’s second straight 14-0 run through the league.

NTL Volleyball: Back-to-back titles for the Gators

The Port Allegany volleyball team poses for the cameras after the Gators (17-1, 14-0) defeated Coudersport to win their second consecutive North Tier League championship.
(Photo credit: Pam Fischer)

Port Allegany and Coudersport were the best two volleyball teams in the North Tier League all season, with the Gators needing five sets to dispatch the Falcons in their first meeting, so nobody was surprised that the NTL title would come down to the rematch in last Thursday night’s regular-season finale in the Port gym.

Knowing they could derail the Gators’ perfect run through the NTL and force a playoff for the league title with a win, Coudy took an early lead, but Port quickly rallied. With the adrenaline factor high and both teams committing uncharacteristic serving errors, the lead seesawed back and forth before the Gators eked out a 25-22 victory in the first set.

Port jumped out in front in the second game on a five-point service run by Taylor Causer, with the senior trio of Rachel Taylor, Jenny Shelley, and Ashley Woodruff doing the damage at the net, but the Falcons kept it close until Becca Lathrop closed out the set with a spike that spun backward off the block attempt for another 25-22 margin.

It was Causer on the service line again to stake the Gators to a 5-1 lead in the third game. Coudy still wouldn’t go away, creeping back within 17-15 before Port went on a six-point run behind the tandem of Shelley serving and Taylor hammering home the kills. A Lathrop kill ended a brief Falcon run to set up match point, and another one secured the 25-18 win and the three-game sweep to repeat as NTL champs.

“They played very well. I’m very proud of them,” Port coach Sharon Daniels said. “They stepped up and they stepped up big. Our game plan the last two or three weeks has just been aggressive on offense – hit the ball, hit the ball, hit the ball. That’s what they’re doing.”

Co-captains Taylor (19 kills, 5 blocks), Shelley (30 assists, 7 points, 6 kills), and Woodruff (6 kills) led the Gators (17-1, 14-0 NTL) in their final regular-season appearance on their home court, with Lathrop (5 points, 8 kills), Brooke Roys (6 kills, 4 blocks), and Causer (10 points, 8 digs) also chipping in.

Kayla Gleason (9 kills), Kelsey Karpinski (5 kills), Kiersten Counts (5 kills, 26 digs) led the Falcons (13-3, 12-2 NTL).

“They play better defense than we do. We have to stick to our gameplan about offense – usually that makes up for what we’re lacking on defense – and they found our weak spots and went after them. They’re a heck of a team,” Coudersport coach Patty Wilson said of the two-time league champs.

“These two teams are so well matched, when we play, it’s fun. I always tell the girls, ‘This is fun. You need to embrace this moment, enjoy the moment.’ Obviously you want to win, but you also want to teach them how to play under that pressure and enjoy the game.”

Both teams were slated to host District 9 first-round matches on Wednesday night – bumped from Tuesday by Hurricane Sandy – with an eye on making it to the championships at St. Marys High School on Saturday.

Would they mind seeing each other again?

“Absolutely. That’s our plan,” Wilson said. “I said to Sharon, ‘You know how they say you don’t want to keep meeting the same team, it’s hard to keep beating a team. Hopefully when we meet you in the playoffs we’ll be able to get you.’”

As for coach Daniels?

“I’d rather not,” she said with a grin.

UPDATE: After a day’s delay due to Hurricane Sandy, both teams posted straight-set victories in their District 9 playoff openers on Wednesday night, with Port downing Otto-Eldred 25-10, 25-5, 25-16 and Coudy spiking Smethport 25-12, 25-17, 25-16.

The third-seeded Gators host No. 6 Keystone at 6:30 p.m. tonight, while the Falcons visit Elk County Catholic in the 4/5 matchup.

Update: Gator spikers sweep Coudy to repeat as NTL champs

Making a clean sweep of the North Tier League volleyball schedule for the second year in a row, Port Allegany (17-1, 14-0) dropped Coudersport (13-3, 12-2) in straight sets (25-22, 25-22, 25-18) to repeat as league champions.

Both teams will host NTL foes in the opening round of the District 9 Class A playoffs next Tuesday night, with the third-seeded Gators facing No. 14 Otto-Eldred while No.12 Smethport visits No. 5 Coudy.

2012 District 9 Class A Volleyball Playoff Bracket

Volleyball: Port claims ECC tourney, still perfect in NTL

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.

Weekend update: Football, volleyball win; boys soccer playoff game on Tuesday

Football: Port Allegany 41, Cameron County 0

With the Red Raiders focusing on stopping Port’s high-flying passing attack, the Gators turned to their ground game, rushing for four first-half touchdowns on the way to a 41-0 win at Emporium on Friday night. Trent Neal led Port High with 66 yards and two scores on 11 carries, while Matt Bodamer completed 16 of 29 passes for 240 yards, one touchdown and one interception and added a pair of rushing touchdowns.

The victory sets up a Week 9 battle of 8-0 unbeatens as Brockway, which defeated Johnsonburg 59-33 to clinch the Allegheny Mountain League South Division, makes the trip north to Gator Field. The Rovers will make the same drive a week later for the AML Championship game, with the No. 1 overall seed in the District 9 Class A playoffs at stake.

Boys soccer: Gators draw No. 3 seed in Class A, host DCC on Tuesday

District IX Boys Class A Soccer Playoffs

Volleyball: Port outlasts Elk County Catholic in finals to claim ECC Tourney

Surviving a marathon first set, the Gators defeated the host Crusaders 30-32, 25-20, 15-13 in the championship match of the ECC Tournament on Saturday in St. Marys. Now 15-1 (12-0 NTL), Port concludes the regular season this week with a visit to Oswayo Valley on Tuesday and a rematch with second-place Coudersport on Thursday.

PAHS roundup: Oct. 10-16

Cross country: OV boys, Smethport girls run to NTL titles

The calendar may change, but Oswayo Valley’s dominance over the area cross country circuit continues. On a crisp, sunny Tuesday afternoon at Port Allegany, the Green Wave rolled to a sixth consecutive North Tier League championship to match their unbeaten league dual-meet record.

Defending NTL and District 9 champ Barrett Kemp concluded his run through the league in style as the OV senior crossed the line in 17:15 to hold off teammates Spencer Cole (17:38) and Gabriel Rees (17:51) and claim yet another title in his glittering career.

Northern Potter runners Ethan Kibbe (18:09) and Tim Adams (18:14) paced the Panthers to a second-place finish, with Gabe Trimbur (Coudersport, 18:21), Grant Nolan (OV, 18:27), Adam Koehler (Port Allegany, 18:33), Michael Adams (NoPo, 18:38), and Caleb Byron (NoPo, 18:46) rounding out the top 10.

Morgan Soule (NoPo) completed the hilly 3.1-mile course in 21:04 to edge OV’s Bailey Kemp (22:10) in the girls’ varsity race, reversing last year’s order of finish. Smethport reclaimed the team crown from Northern Potter as Hubber runners Katie Arnett (22:13) and Elizabeth Tanner (22:25) were the next two across the line, with Ellen Kibbe (NoPo, 22:31), Amelia Kibbe (NoPo, 22:43), Courtney Rogers (Coudy, 22:58), Kiersten Slater (Smethport, 23:27), Kahlie Carpenter (OV, 23:38), and Anna Colebert (Otto-Eldred) 23:46 also earning medals with top-10 runs.

Coudersport won both the boys’ and girls’ junior high races, with Smethport’s Justin Tanner (8:47) and Northern Potter’s Emma Ford (9:29) claiming individual honors.

The hill-and-dale season concludes with the D-9 meet in Ridgway on Oct, 27, followed by the PIAA championships on Nov. 3 at the Parkview Country Club course in Hershey.

Girls soccer: Gators end season at 4-12

It was an up-and-down year for the Port Allegany girls soccer team, with the Gators reclaiming the “Ten-Mile Trophy” by sweeping Smethport but falling short of their goal to return to the District 9 playoffs.

“We played very well but were outmuscled in the end,” coach Travis Cowburn wrote after Port dropped a 4-1 decision at perennial Section V contender Genesee Valley last Friday night. “They were very physical as we knew they would be but no answer for it. Cheyenne Helo had an outstanding game in the back sweeper position. Somer Buchsenschutz scored on a beautiful shot, as her speed met the goalie out of position. Lynae Delacour delivered the ball on a gorgeous pass from midfield.”

Emily Chamberlain scored twice and Chelsea Halbert made three saves to pick up the win for the Jaguars (11-3), while Laura Fox stopped 15 shots in the Port net.

The Gators completed their season on Tuesday with a 2-0 loss to Elk County Catholic, as Michaela Cashmer and Morgan Onink each tallied a goal for the Crusaders and Hannah Onink earned the shutout win.

Port (4-12, 4-6 UAVSL) will lose seniors Jessica Achar, Gabrielle Drabert, Kayla Ford, Cheyenne Helo, Samantha Hughes and Mary Rosenswie from this year’s roster, but Buchsenschutz, Delacour, and Fox should provide a solid base of returning talent next season.

Volleyball: Gators stay atop NTL

Three more North Tier League matches, three more straight-set victories for the Port Allegany volleyball team, as the Gators remained on track to match last season’s perfect run through the league schedule.

Jenny Shelley (16 service points, 26 assists, 4 kills) and Rachel Taylor (8 points, 11 kills) led the way in Port’s 25-16, 25-17, 25-10 win over Austin last Tuesday, with Becca Lathrop contributing 8 kills and Ashley Woodruff adding 12 points.

Thursday was Senior Night at the Port Allegany gym, with honorees Shelley (16 points, 7 kills, 24 assists), Taylor (8 points, 12 kills, 5 blocks) and Woodruff (10 points, 3 kills, 7 digs) all playing a major role as the Gators dropped Otto-Eldred 25-10, 25-14, 25-12.

“This was a good win on Senior Night. All three seniors stepped up and played well,” coach Sharon Daniels wrote in an email to the Reporter Argus.

The Gators stepped out of the NTL the next night as Portville, a perennial Section VI power, stopped Port’s regular-season winning streak with a 25-22, 21-25, 26-24, 26-24 victory despite 26 assists and 14 service points from Shelley, 14 kills and 5 blocks by Taylor, and 8 kills by Woodruff.

“You can tell from the scores, this was a close match,” Daniels wrote. “It was a disappointing loss, especially since we were leading in the last two games and then didn’t pull out the win. Portville is a nice team. They are quick on offense and we didn’t make the adjustments we needed to on defense. It was a learning experience for both our front and back row and was a good match to have heading into playoffs in two weeks.

“Two juniors stepped up big for us. Becca Lathrop (7 points, 7 kills, 3 blocks) played big all the way around and Taylor Causer (12 points) was clutch serving for us. 92/95 serving on the night definitely kept us in all four games.”

Returning to league play on Tuesday night, the Gators also returned to their winning ways with a 25-11, 25-12, 25-14 victory over Smethport.

“Tonight was a strong team win,” Daniels wrote. “Shelley (6 points, 4 kills, 35 assists) and Taylor (14 kills, 9 blocks) are always a strong duo. Becca Lathrop (8 points, 11 kills) has gotten stronger every match since our tournament play in Sheffield. Jena Young (7 points, 5 kills) has also made her presence known. Brooke Roys (7 kills, 5 blocks) had a strong showing at the net tonight and Taylor Causer (10 points) played a quick 6 and served very well. We were missing senior Ashley Woodruff and Amber Naylor; Rikki Rennells and Bethy Bernardi (14 points) stepped up effectively.”

Port (14-1, 11-0 NTL) travels to Cameron County on Thursday, then takes part in the Elk County Catholic Tournament on Saturday before finishing the NTL season against Oswayo Valley and Coudersport next week.

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.

Volleyball: Gators stay unbeaten at 8-0

Both sides wore black in last Thursday night’s North Tier League volleyball match between Port Allegany and Smethport at the PAHS gym, but once the ball went up, it wasn’t hard to tell which team was the defending NTL champs.

Racing out to an 11-0 lead behind the serving of Jenny Shelley in Game 1, the Gators made quick work of the first two games, then withstood a Hubber surge in the third to wrap up the 25-12, 25-8, 25-16 win.

Shelley’s left-handed serves confounded the Smethport returners all night, piling up 18 points and five aces – including a pair back-to-back to close out the first game – and the Gator senior added 25 assists and three kills in another straight-set victory.

“She’s got a lot of topspin on that ball,” Port coach Sharon Daniels said of the three-time North Tier all-star. “Whether she’s running a jump serve or whether she’s running flat, she just has so much topspin. It’s coming at you, and then it dies right in front of you. It’s tough to handle.”

When the Hubs did get the ball back over the net, they found the trio of Rachel Taylor (9 points, 11 kills, 5 blocks), Becca Lathrop (7 points, 4 kills), and Ashley Woodruff (7 points, 7 kills) waiting on the other side. And when it looked like Smethport might mount a challenge, taking their first lead of the night at 3-2 in the third game and still within range at 11-8, junior middle hitter Taylor Causer followed a Port timeout with a huge block and a four-point service run to help the Gators pull away for the win.

“She played well tonight,” said Daniels of Causer. “But everybody’s stepping up – it doesn’t matter whether you’re a starter or you’re coming off the bench.”

Port added two more straight-set wins to open the week, downing Galeton 25-13, 25-9, 25-9 in a non-league road match on Monday, then returning home to take out Cameron County 25-12, 25-14, 25-11 the next night.

Shelley dealt out 30 assists and added 10 points and three kills against the Tigers, with Taylor (14 kills, 6 blocks, 10 points) leading the offense and Lathrop (9 points, 5 kills, 2 blocks), Woodruff (7 kills), and Brooke Roys (7 points, 4 kills, 2 blocks) contributing.

The Red Raiders didn’t have any better luck against Shelley’s serves than the Hubbers had, as the senior racked up 11 points on nine aces and filled up the stat sheet with 19 assists, four kills, two blocks, and five digs. Taylor (8 kills), Lathrop (15 points, 3 kills, 5 digs), Causer (16 points), Roys (6 points, 5 kills, 3 blocks) and Woodruff (6 kills, 5 digs) also garnered mention from the Port mentor as the Gators won their 24th straight regular-season match to move to 8-0, 5-0 NTL.

“We’re playing steady,” Daniels said on Thursday night. “I’m pleased with everybody. If we stay healthy, we’ll be okay.”