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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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!”

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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.