Nov. 15—WARREN — The D-10 Champion Maplewood Tigers girls volleyball team saw its season come to an end Tuesday night as they lost to Elk County Catholic in three straight sets (25-19, 26-24, 26-24) in the semifinal round of the PIAA Class 1A state playoffs.
Both the eye test and Maplewood head coach Sheila Bancroft will tell you that the Tigers were just not equipped to beat the Crusaders.
"I told the girls coming in that if it was meant to be then it will happen," said Bancroft. "I don't think it was meant to be, and we got beat by the better team today."
All game you could sense that the Tigers were a step off in certain areas of their game. They struggled with serving, handling free balls and receiving serves.
The majority of the first set was even, but Elk County managed to take control in the later stages of the set. Maplewood went down 22-15 and never recovered as they lost the first set.
"We had a lot of young girls out on the floor, and I think they learned from this and they know that this is a game of inches and a game of errors," said Bancroft "You can't make that many (errors) when it comes down to crunch time."
The Tiger offense, as usual, ran through the hands of senior Elizabeth Hunter. But as the game progressed, the Crusaders seemingly figured out a way to limit Maplewood's offensive swings. Maplewood then dropped the crucial second set, which went past 25 points.
"She still finished with 20 kills, but we needed more than her going," said Bancroft on Hunter. "She carries us offensively, but we needed a couple more to step up and we just didn't have that balanced attack tonight."
Playing opposite of Hunter, fellow senior Savannah O'Hara was the other main offensive weapon for the Tigers. She finished with 17 kills, but with nobody else providing that key offense, Maplewood got a small preview into what next season could be like with both Hunter and O'Hara graduating.
"I said in the locker room that losing Elizabeth and losing Savannah O'Hara will mean that the one-two punch on offense is gone," said Bancroft. "Someone is going to need to step up and take their place. We have the passing and we have the defense. Next year we have some big holes to fill."
The Tigers once again forced a game past 25 points in the third set but a mixture of momentum swings and errors resulted in Elk County Catholic taking it. Ashlynn Schultz ended things with an ace that hit right on the line behind the Maplewood defense.
Thus ends the high school volleyball careers of Hunter, O'Hara, and outside hitter Sheila Despenes. Elk County Catholic will play West Branch in the state championship game on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at Cumberland Valley High School.
Owen Krepps can be reached at 814-724-6370 or at email@example.com.