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Clarion, ECC Move into D9 Class 1A Volleyball Title Match

CLARION, Pa. – Just wanting to be the best they can be.

(Photo: Korrin Burns of Clarion (right) get a kill through A-C Valley blockers Andrea Meals (23) and Emily Wetzel (12) during Thursday night’s District 9 Class 1A semifinal match won by Clarion, 3-0. Photo by Kim Constantino)

That is what the Clarion volleyball team is living by, and that best has led the defending champion Lady Cats back to the District 9 Class 1A volleyball championship game with a 3-0 (25-16, 25-20, 25-15) victory over rival A-C Valley in the semifinals Thursday night at Clarion High School.

Relisten to the match:

“We are real serious,” Clarion head coach Shari Campbell said. “I imagine that no parent of any of these players sent their kid to school to ge a ‘D’ in Algebra. So, we are not waking up to get a ‘D’ in volleyball either. We don’t get a ‘D’ in anything in life. We are pretty serious about being the best you can be, and the result of that is winning.”

Winning is something the second-seeded Lady Cats have done a lot of this year, as they are now 15-1 heading into Saturday’s title match with top-seeded Elk County Catholic. Clarion is searching for its 13th title in the past 19 years.

“We try so hard to always celebrate getting to the championship match,” Campbell said. “It means something. It is important after being there multiple times for the kids to not just overlook that. We have emphasized all year that you have to be in the moment. You have to be excited by everything you accomplish and not look past it. This is big. We will take some time to relish that we there and that we know we are moving onto (the PIAA Tournament). And then we will get serious about winning.”

A great defensive effort led to Clarion’s victory over A-C Valley Thursday, as the Lady Cats dug 49 balls on the night led by 11 digs each from KK Girvin and Korrin Burns and 10 from setter Brenna Campbell.

“Talk,” senior outside hitter Kait Constantino, who added five digs of her own, said when asked why the defense was so strong. “We have worked on that in the back row. If we just talk, then we know where each other are, and we can pass well.”

The communication was a big reason Clarion limited A-C Valley to just 13 kills on the night.

“These kids have played together since sixth grade,” Shari Campbell said. “They know how to find each other with the ball, and they do that with ease. That is truly what set this team apart. It’s chemistry. It’s the ball control that allows all this other fancy stuff to develop off of that.”

The other “fancy” stuff would be an attacking offense that recorded 35 kills on the night with kills coming from six different players led by 12 from Burns and 11 from Constantino, who was the Hager Paving Player of the Match.

“That is a major thing we have worked on,” Constantino said of spreading around the offense. “That is so key to our team/ That is our goal, to have a diverse offense.”

Watch Constantino’s interview

Early on, the diversity showed with five different players recording kills in the first set led by five from Constantino and two each from Burns and freshman Aryana Girvin, who is starting to come into her own and had six kills on the night.

“I knew she had the strength to hit the ball hard,” Shari Campbell said of Girvin. “It is great to see her get some control, get some decision making and get some command at the net, which is something we want to see this time of the year.”

Girvin added three more kills in the second set, and Burns had six kills in the set as Clarion raced to a 19-10 lead on its way to the five-point set victory.

The diversity on offense continued in the third set with five Clarion players combining for 11 kills in the set to close out the match led by four more from Burns.

“This (advancing) means everything to us,” Constantino said. “This is what we put (time) in the gym. We spent time working through the gym every day since June or July. It has been our goal to get here.”

Brenna Campbell added 30 set assists to her 10 kills to give her a double-double, while Jordan Best had six digs, four aces and two kills.

A-C Valley, which lost just three times on the season – twice to Clarion and once to Cranberry – was led by four kills from Mia Sherman and three from Meah Ielase. Emily Wetzel had seven set assists and two kills.

ELK COUNTY CATHOLIC 3, CRANBERRY 1

ST. MARYS, Pa. – After dropping the first set to visiting and fourth-seeded Cranberry, top-seeded Elk County Catholic rallied to win the next three set to beat the Berries, 3-1 (23-25, 25-10, 25-22, 27-25), in the District 9 Class 1A semifinals.

“Tonight, I feel we played with heart,” ECC head coach Kelsey Morey said. “Our service errors tonight could have been our own worst enemy, but we worked through it.”

Morey pointed to the Lady Crusaders offense and defense as big reasons her team was able to overcome the service errors.

“I think our offense was very effective,” Morey said. “We had some girls step up on defense and give us those good passes to do so.”

Taylor Newton led ECC with 25 kills, seven blocks and four aces.

“I’d like to praise Taylor tonight,” Morey said. “She had an incredible game tonight all around.”

ECC will play defending champion Clarion for the D9 title at 3 p.m. Saturday at St. Marys High School. The Lady Crusaders are looking for their first D9 title since winning three in a row in Class 1A from 1994 to 1996.

“We are excited and humbled to be in this position to play for the title on Saturday and to keep our season going,” Morey said.

Julia Aiken added 13 kills for ECC with Brooke Bauer adding four kills. Ellie Fledderman ran the offense with 44 set assists and added five kills.

Ava Ferringer paced Cranberry with 16 kills, six blocks and two aces, Abby Hannah chipped in eight kills and Maria Anderson had six kills. Emily Duncan ran the Berries offense with 28 set assists.

With the win, ECC also qualified for the PIAA playoffs, which start next week.



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