Philipsburg-Osceola volleyball sweeps Huntingdon|
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
By Jon Christoff Sports Writer
PHILIPSBURG - Philipsburg-Osceola volleyball head coach Dave Eckberg knew the serve of Huntingdon's Haleigh Heaton would be a crucial part of Tuesday's match in Philipsburg - so much so that Eckberg and his Lady Mounties prepared for it all practice on Monday.
The Lady Bearcat's left-handed serve gave P-O fits in the first set, as the guests jumped out to a 10-2 lead behind Heaton's eight-point service run.
Luckily for the Lady Mounties, they had a southpaw of their own.
P-O scrapped back to within six at 22-16 when sophomore Kenzie Burge toed the end line. When she was done, Burge had given the Lady Mounties some hope to rally for the first-set win, and rally they did.
P-O scored 18 of the last 25 points to claim the first set, and the momentum catapulted it to a three-set win over its Mountain League rival.
The Lady Mounties won 26-24, 25-17 and 25-13.
"We always seem to have a good group come through (when) they have a good group come through," said Eckberg. "It's very evenly matched and, if we don't find a way to win Game 1, my confidence isn't nearly as high in the outcome of the match.
"If you had to point to one key point in the match, that was the one. We could have easily folded there, but she went for it and that was our attitude - we were going to go after it some tonight."
The Lady Mounties' early aggression aided Huntingdon in building the then-seemingly insurmountable lead, but Eckberg's squad regrouped and didn't stop until a pair of unforced errors gave P-O the first-set win.
Burge ended the night with 15 service points to go along with six aces - both of which were game-highs - and dished out 23 assists.
Conversely, Heaton was unable to maintain her early success and ended the night by matching Burge's output with 15.
"It was such a critical time of the game, too," Eckberg said of Burge's late heroics. "She's got a high-risk, high-reward serve, so I said, ‘let's go after it some tonight and increase the tempo,' and that service run was probably what made the difference in Game 1.
"I knew they'd come around, but we were very nervous. It was clear the first couple of swings and the first couple of serves that we were very nervous. I thought, once we got our anxiety under control, that our gameplan would work and that's the way it played out.
"Fortunately, we were able to do that in Game 1 and took a little bit of wind out of Huntingdon's sails and put it back in our direction."
With the Lady Bearcats' height at the net, Eckberg opted to give outside hitter Kylie Scovern a majority of the swings.
Scovern, who had 34 attempts, struggled in the early going to get into a rhythm, but when she did Huntingdon didn't have an answer.
The Lady Bearcats crept to within four in the second set, 21-17, but a pair of kills from Scovern and back-to-back aces from Abby Showers all but ended Huntingdon's hopes for leaving with a victory.
Scovern ended the night with a team-high 10 kills.
"Kylie needs confidence," said Eckberg, "and the best way I've found is to let her play through it a little bit. She responds well to keeping her spirits up and, once that happens, she has a lot of ability and she showed that in Games 2 and 3, especially.
"We didn't set much to our middles or weak-sides, so she was taking a lot of swings out there. She ended up with 34 attempts and that was almost double what we had from anyone else."
The effects of the first-set loss appeared to have frazzled the Lady Bearcats, who committed 18 unforced errors in the second set.
After P-O gained the momentum of a two-set lead, it was able to roll to the clinching-set victory.
Scovern's serving highlighted the third, as she reeled off six straight points to make a 12-7 advantage a commanding 11-point cushion.
Showers finished the night with a team-best eight digs, while Emily Bush-Clark and Marlee Chutko had three blocks apiece.
"They're always well-coached," Eckberg said of Huntingdon. "We tried to find a nice balance of aggressiveness and not beating ourselves, which we tend to do - and you saw a little bit of that in the first game.
"Once we started getting a little confident, our true ability came out. They came in here and played well. They made us earn every point.
"The team that we have is one that you have to let them play through their mistakes. If you get on them too much it isn't going to help them. All it's going to do is break them down. They showed some good resiliency and resolve in beating a good Huntingdon team tonight."
P-O, which improved to 4-0 in match play and 3-0 in the Mountain League, is back in action Thursday when it entertains Bald Eagle Area.
The Lady Mounties won the jayvee match in three sets.