ALLPORT — Beating a team three times in one season is hard. Having that third time roll around during the playoffs makes it even more difficult.
But West Branch managed to pull the feat off, topping Claysburg-Kimmel in four sets 25-8, 25-27, 25-13 and 25-18 on Tuesday in the District 6 Class A quarters.
“They know us,” said Lady Warriors head coach Terry Trude. “We know them. It’s always a hard-fought battle. They very are athletic. A lot of their girls play basketball and softball, so they are seasoned athletes who know how to win.
“You just have to beat them by being more technical and putting the ball in play. It’s difficult to beat someone three times in a row. The ICC is getting better and better every year.”
Things looked very good early for West Branch, which pulled out to a 21-3 lead in the first set.
Emma Morlock had a seven-point service run, while Taylor Kalke served up five straight points. Morlock finished the night with 11 service points, while Kalke had 10.
“I was impressed with our serving,” Trude said. “We put the ball in play, which is what you have to do in districts.”
Claysburg finally got a point off the serve on its fifth rotation after a hitting error by the Lady Warriors, who went on to win that first set 25-8.
“First game we came out on fire and I think they came out a little intimidated of us,” Trude said. “We made a lot of plays.”
The second game was a completely different story for both teams.
After trading the lead back and forth, including two chances at game point by West Branch, the Lady Bulldogs rallied to stay in the game.
A hitting error by the Lady Warriors gave Claysburg the sideout and tied the game at 25-25.
Michele Imler served up the last two points, helped along by a hitting error and a net violation by West Branch to give the Lady Bulldogs the 27-25 victory.
“The second game we mixed some things up and tried to get some kids some experience,” Trude said. “It didn’t backfire, but Claysburg raised their level and I think they figured things out.”
The teams were tied at 7-7 in the third set, when Corrin Evans gave the Lady Warriors some breathing room with a four-point service run to make it 11-7.
Claysburg-Kimmel got a sideout to cut it to 11-8 before a hitting error gave WB back the ball.
Meghan Cantolina went on a seven-point run to make 19-8 in favor of the Lady Warriors, who never looked back in the 25-13 win.
“The third game we played really well,” said Trude. “In high school volleyball matches you can’t take anything for granted. We really had to battle that fourth game. I would expect that in district play. Claysburg is very athletic.”
The Lady Bulldogs took a 15-9 lead in the fourth set, thanks to some key plays by Megan Hartman and Jocelyn Shultz.
Hartman had eight kills on the night, while Shultz added four kills and two blocks.
But the Lady Warriors’ serving helped them out again, as Morgan Glace went on a six-point run to give her team a 16-15 lead.
West Branch went up 19-18 before a five-point run from Taylor Myers ended it 25-18.
“I think they played more defense and we were more offense,” Trude said. “We were hitting right at them though and not hitting our spots. We just need to be a little more creative with our shots.”
Myers had 15 kills, while Morlock and Kalke each had 10. Evans netted eight kills, while Cantolina had six.
Myers also finished with 10 service points, while Evans had eight. Glace had 12 service points and finished the game with 43 assists.
“I thought Corrin played a really good game,” Trude said. “She had eight kills. She played her game. We’ve been getting her the ball a lot more and she really stepped up, so I am proud of that.
“To have our outsides have at least 10 kills each is great. Taylor Kalke has been solid for us. She hit some balls out early, but then she figured it out. Her leadership was really good.
“We have a big game with BC on Thursday. The band was great tonight and the fans were great. We hope for that same support on Thursday.”
West Branch improved to 31-4 overall. The Lady Warriors host No. 3 seed Bishop Carroll on Thursday in the District 6 Class A semis.