CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP — Before Philipsburg-Osceola’s game against North Catholic on Tuesday, West Branch head coach Terry Trude made a bold statement.
He told everyone that the Lady Mounties were going to beat defending Class AA champ North Catholic.
Turns out, the Lady Warriors coach knew what he was talking about.
The Lady Mounties traveled over two-plus hours to get to the school in Cranberry Township, but showed no signs of sluggishness, popping out to an 8-1 first-set lead before taking the match in four sets.
“I obviously respect Terry’s opinion alot,” said P-O head coach Dave Eckberg with a laugh. “I don’t know, I’ve probably said this a hundred times, but this team plays through adversity like no other teams I’ve had.
“They keep throwing it at us by making us travel for sure, but we got out to a nice lead. That was big, because North Catholic definitely turned their game on.”
P-O’s Reese Hazelton had 41 kills, 15 digs and seven service points on the night. She was hard to stop most of the night, even when she was double blocked.
“Like I said before, when Reese gets a kill, the first thing she does is look at her setter and says, ‘Nice set,’” Eckberg said. “Then she looks at her passer and says, ‘Nice pass.’
“That’s what this team is all about. We had digs from everybody tonight. And, we had to because their outsides started to take some big swings.”
Philipsburg-Osceola built on its 8-1 lead in the first set, with Jayden Perks serving up five points in the run.
The Trojanettes called a timeout to try and adjust, but the Lady Mounties continued on their run, eventually taking a 15-3 advantage.
Philipsburg-Osceola went on to win 25-15.
The second set was more of the same, as Hazelton kept getting some great sets after key digs by the Lady Mounties.
Janey Johnson had 13 digs, while London Cutler had 12 digs. Kalista Butler and Bella Curtorillo each had 11.
“I think we caught them off guard with some things,” Eckberg said. “But their outsides started to take over and we lost our ball control. We fought back and we got a nice kill from Paige again to end it.
“All of the kids contributed tonight and that’s what we like. I think every single player dug the ball tonight. It’s just a credit to this team.”
Philipsburg-Osceola took the second set 25-20.
The Lady Mountie faithful were out in full force on Tuesday, filling up the side of the gym behind P-O’s bench.
Philipsburg-Osceola looked to get out of town with a sweep, and had game point in the third set, but the Trojanettes rallied to take the 26-24 victory.
That sent the teams to a fourth set, where the Lady Mounties went down 4-0 quickly.
They rebounded, however, getting a service run from Paige Jarrett to take a 10-9 advantage.
The teams continued to trade sideouts, with North Catholic getting in some athletic plays thanks to the work of their setter Sydnei Jones.
The Trojanettes got as close as 24-22, before the Lady Mounties scored the game point to take the match and earn their first-ever trip to the state title game.
“It’s crazy,” said Cutler. “It’s been a goal for us since we were in the eighth grade, and it’s actually happening. We can do this.
“Everyone played their part tonight. Reese is definitely a huge help because she is insane out there. But we couldn’t do this without everyone.”
Butler had 42 assists and five kills, while Perks netted nine service points and five blocks. Cutler had nine service points and Jarrett had eight.
“We have a Mountain League trophy and we have a district banner that we can point to,” Eckberg said. “I said, ‘Let’s add another banner on that wall that doesn’t exist right now.’
“We are one game away from doing that.
“Hopefully we can add another one to the Philipsburg-Osceola gym.”
Philipsburg-Osceola improved to 20-0 overall. The Lady Mounties play Trinity, the District 3 champ, on Saturday at 1 p.m.