JOHNSONBURG, Pa. (EYT/D9) – In playoff volleyball, your opposition will generally capitalize on your mistakes, and on Thursday evening, Johnsonburg did just that in taking the first two sets over Clarion-Limestone, 25-12 and 25-21.
However, for the Lions, things began to start clicking in the third set as they began to minimize those mistakes to come away with a 25-21 victory of their own. C-L completed the rally with a 25-16 fourth-set win before dominating the fifth and deciding set, 15-5, to complete the comeback.
It had been 2005 since C-L had won in the playoffs.
“We set goals coming into the season,” said C-L head coach Ryan Troupe. “We wanted a winning record, we wanted to make playoffs, and we wanted to win in the playoffs. But these girls, with their experience, still want more, and as we’ve done all season, it is a one-day-at-a-time and one-game-at-a-time approach.”
Brooke Kessler put away 15 kills to lead the way for C-L. Ruby Smith, Celia Shaffer, and Alyssa Wiant each recorded nine kills, and Jenna Dunn pitched in with five kills.
Smith served for 13 points with three aces, Jenna Dunn eight points with six coming in the final set, Kendall Dunn handed out 37 assists, while also serving for 11 points.
“We trust all of our girls to produce at the net,” said Troupe. “It’s a great thing to have when you have so many options that the opponent has to worry about. Tonight, it was Alyssa Wiant’s turn, and she did a really good job when the other girls were struggling a bit until we were able to get Ruby and Brooke going again.”
C-L (12-2) started the match well enough in taking an 8-4 lead. However, things began the go south as the Lions began racking up service errors, along with hitting errors, which Johnsonburg turned into a 21-4 run to take the first set.
Johnsonburg led by as many as seven points in the second set at 17-10. C-L trimmed the deficit to three at 23-20, but the Lions couldn’t get closer and dropped a 25-21 decision.
“Those first two sets, we just weren’t playing well in all phases of the game,” said Troupe. “We did actually begin playing better toward the end of the second set. I told them after that set that they’ve finally arrived at Johnsonburg, and now they had to go out and play like they know they are capable of playing.”
Johnsonburg still jumped out to an 8-2 lead in the third set. The Lions would use a 10-4 run to tie the score 12-12. From there, the set would feature six ties, with the last coming at 20-20. C-L then closed the set on a 5-1 run.
In the fourth set, the Lions would build a seven-point advantage at 16-9 before Johnsonburg closed to within three at 18-15. However, that would be the last point of the set as C-L closed with a 7-0 run with Smith serving for two consecutive aces to force the fifth and deciding set.
In the final set, the Lions jumped out to an 8-3 lead, forcing a Johnsonburg timeout. The break didn’t help as Dunn continued her service run with four more points to open a 12-3 lead. That would be more than enough of a cushion as C-L closed out the set and the match 15-5.
“We dug ourselves a hole, and we were being outplayed,” said Troupe. “Johnsonburg has a good team, and they are really scrappy and go after and actually get to just about everything. Plus, they have some pretty good hitters and that’s a scary thing to prepare for. We just finally were able to settle down and get back to playing our brand of volleyball and we were able to get the win.”
C-L now faces a daunting task against undefeated rival Clarion, the No. 1 seed in the tournament, at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday at a site to be determined.