P-O wins on Senior Night|
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
By Jaclyn Yingling Sports Editor
PHILIPSBURG - Three years ago, Philipsburg-Osceola volleyball head coach Dave Eckberg found himself in a situation no coach wants to be in.
With no juniors or seniors on his team, Eckberg was forced to play a varsity and junior varsity schedule with just 10 girls.
Fast forward to 2013, when those same five sophomores took to the court for their Senior Night.
The Lady Mountie quintet didn't disappoint, sweeping visiting Clearfield, 25-13, 25-4 and 25-12 on Tuesday.
"I kind of remember the second game of the season we played their sophomore year, and it was home against Central," said Eckberg. "We lost in five sets, but you could tell that night there was something special coming. They took a team they had no business competing against and pushed them to the brink.
"It was after that match we said, ‘We've got something going here.' From there it's been pushing towards bigger goals."
Indeed, P-O made the playoffs in 2011, losing to Richland in the district quarterfinals.
The Lady Mounties went even further last year, falling in the title game to Penn Cambria.
Eckberg said the success is a credit to his seniors - Emily Bush-Clark, Marlee Chutko, Taylor Olenick, Kylie Scovern and Jordyn Walstrom - who stuck together the past four years.
"They've bought into what we have been preaching for several years," he said. "The program is about more than volleyball. We try to talk about other things, like character and values. They are just phenomenal kids.
"They are good students. They are good people. A lot of them have jobs, so volleyball kind of comes along with that. And along the way, they have become pretty good volleyball players."
Eckberg let all five of his seniors start on Tuesday night, putting junior setter McKenzie Burge in as the lone underclassmen. Burge, along with classmates Elizabeth Robertson, Abby Showers and Morgan Williamson, who is missing this season because of injury, were four of the five freshmen to see lots of playing time back in 2011.
Interestingly, the Lady Mounties faced off against the Lady Bison, who are almost a mirror image of that 2011 team. Clearfield had just 12 players on its roster, and was down to eight Tuesday night because of injuries.
"I give Sarah (Fye) and her team lot of credit," said Eckberg. "They had a lot of injuries and low numbers - things that we have been through, too.
"She kept the kids together and even on October 22, their kids are out their sweating and diving. That's a credit to the coaching staff in keeping the kids together and playing hard through adversity. They've done a great job."
Clearfield, playing in its last game of the season, gave P-O all it could handle in the first set, as Olivia Smith had a five-point service run.
"We've been working really hard at serving," said Lady Bison head coach Sarah Fye. "We want to get ahead of teams and make them work for their points. It's very frustrating when balls go in the net or out of bounds.
"The girls worked very hard on their serving and did a great job."
The Lady Mounties eventually pulled away to win the set, 25-13, thanks to the serving of Robertson and Walstrom.
Walstrom had 10 of 26 service points on the night in the set, while Robertson had five points.
In the second set, Walstrom staked P-O to a 14-0 lead before the Lady Bison got a sideout on a missed serve.
Burge added six service points, to help the Lady Mounties take the set, 25-4.
The junior setter had 15 service points on the night, including five aces, as well as 19 assists.
"Philipsburg-Osceola is a great all-around team," Fye said. "They can hit, they can serve and they can pass. Our kids came out with a lot of determination. They didn't want it to be a breeze-through game. Our girls worked hard the whole time.
"They made P-O work for every point they got."
The third set was probably Clearfield's best set of the night. Despite being down 2-0, the Lady Bison continued to go after everything, retrieving balls from out of bounds to pick up points.
Macala Leigey had two kills in the set, while Sarah Lash added one.
"Ever since Day 1, we have said that no other team would outhustle us," said Fye. "That's just one thing every coach likes to see from their kids - heart and hustle.
"My girls take pride in that, and I have to give them a round of applause for it."
Eckberg was able to substitute his seniors out one-by-one in the third set, allowing them to each get a round of applause from the crowd as they exited.
The quintet did a good job, despite not usually playing together all the time.
"Our philosophy is that all of our players have to know how to play all positions on the court," Eckberg said. "You just never know. You are one turned ankle or illness away from having to do that. Hopefully, they showed that tonight. They can mix it up and still play some solid volleyball."
P-O went on to win the third set, 25-12.
Walstrom led all servers with 23 service points, including three aces. Bush-Clark added four service points and three kills, while Scovern netted seven kills. Chutko tallied four kills, while Olenick had two kills.
Philipsburg-Osceola improved to 27-5 overall. The Lady Mounties await District 6 seeding for the Class AA playoffs, which begin next week.
"We had a really good tournament this past weekend where we played some really good competition," said Eckberg. "I think we are ready for the challenge. But anything can happen, so we have to be prepared for everything."
Clearfield finished the season at 0-20.
NOTES: Clearfield's two seniors - Hannah Riley and Khushali Patel were also honored in pre-game festivities. ... The Lady Mounties should receive a home game when next week's playoffs begin. ... The P-O seniors have a career record of 103-22 so far, and have made the playoffs every year.