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Rallying Cry: Despite Bad Start, the North Clarion Volleyball Team Rallies for Improbable Win at Union

RIMERSBURG, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Makenzie Lupole threw her arms in the air and screamed.

Her North Clarion teammates mobbed her on the court. They smiled. They jumped up and down. They bellowed with joy.

It was the release only seen after a big win, and this one was perhaps the biggest of the season for the North Clarion volleyball team, which rallied from a forgettable first set and fended off match-point in the fourth for an 8-25, 25-16, 14-25, 26-24, 15-8 win at Union on Monday night.

“I love volleyball,” Lupole said. “To see my teammates get down, I feel like I am obligated to bring them back up.”

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.

Lupole did that with her play and her attitude. Things could not have started worse for the Wolves, who were down 20-3 at one point in the first set before ultimately dropping it by a lopsided score.

Things were so bad, North Clarion didn’t get its first kill until the second set.

But, the Wolves rallied to draw even at 1-1, and after falling behind 2-1, refused to give in again in the fourth set.

North Clarion trailed 24-22 after a kill by Dominika Logue, but the Wolves managed to keep a point alive with a difficult dig and then a mad scramble to keep the ball off the floor and over the net. They won that point and then won the next three to steal the set and force a deciding fifth.

“You know, the beginning wasn’t looking so good,” Coach Isabelle Weaver said, chuckling. “But when they regrouped, they said, ‘You know, we worked this hard. We have to finish it off now.’ We regrouped several times. Our leaders really came together, and they said this is our game.”

Lupole had two huge kills and a block in the third set. The junior hasn’t played middle hitter since her freshman year.

Until now.

“My other middle got injured, unfortunately, so I threw Makenzie in there,” Weaver said. “She’s played it in the past, but we didn’t even get to practice it. I told her, ‘You played middle before. You can do it.’”

Perhaps more valuable than her play in the middle was her ability to rally her team.

“She’s one of my biggest energy leaders,” Weaver said. “If you need someone to get pumped up, you just have to look to her.”

Lupole, Emily Aites, and Amya Green each had four kills for North Clarion. And that was it; the Wolves had just 12 kills in the match.

The W is the only stat that counts for the Wolves, though.

That’s the type of team they have been this season. Just finding a way.

“We had a bad start, but I knew we were better than that,” Weaver said. “I always tell them we fight for every point. No matter how much we are down, I tell them we’re still in it and keep fighting.”

Union coach Corri Shumaker saw that first hand.

“They’re just a scrappy team,” Shumaker said. “We knew that going in. They’re very scrappy. They pick up everything. They are very frustrating. They’re everywhere.”

What frustrated Shumaker more than anything else was her team’s woes at the service line.

Union (9-8) had 21 service errors in the match. North Clarion had 14.

That plus-7 for the Wolves proved costly for the Damsels.

“It’s rough,” Shumaker said. “In the second set, we had (nine) service errors. I mean, serving killed us tonight.”

It was a sour end to Senior Night for Dominka Logue, Hailey Kriebel, and Keira Croyle.

All three had strong matches for Union.

Logue had 12 kills, 10 digs, and four dace. Croyle had 12 assists and four aces, and Kriebel had three kills.

Grace Kindel added six aces for Union, which now needs to beat either Clarion on Tuesday or A-C Valley on Thursday to get into the playoffs.

“They’re pretty down on themselves because they lost,” Shumaker said. “But, I thought (the three seniors) played well tonight.

“We have two games left,” Shumaker added. “And, they’re both tough teams.”

North Clarion (6-6) is also facing a must-win Tuesday against Cranberry. A win and the Wolves will advance to the playoffs.

“I’ve never done that,” said Green, a senior, who has never played a set of playoff volleyball. “My goal was to make the playoffs this year. We wouldn’t have made it if we lost tonight.”

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.

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