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Clarion-Limestone Volleyball Team Dominant in Sweep of Struggling A-C Valley

FOXBURG, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Three weeks ago, Brooke Kessler heard and felt a disturbing crunch coming from her right hand during a Clarion-Limestone volleyball practice.

She looked down at the pinky finger and grimaced.

The senior outside hitter for the Lions knew it was broken.

“Oh, it was bad,” Kessler said. “It was very bad.”

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

Bad enough she wondered if she would be able to play the rest of the season.

Then she hatched a plan: a doctor can’t tell she’s sidelined if she doesn’t see a doctor to begin with.

So Kessler grabbed some tape, secured her fractured pinky to her ring finger and kept on playing. She was on the court Tuesday night at A-C Valley, fingers taped again, and turned in another stellar performance in the Lions’ 25-13, 25-12, 25-12 victory over the struggling Falcons.

“If I see a doctor, I’m out,” Kessler said, smiling knowingly. “So, I just didn’t go. It’s all about volleyball at this point.”

Kessler, whose diminutive size belies just what a force she is at the net, has shown no ill effects from the injury. In fact, Kessler may be playing the best volleyball of her career right now.

She laughs and shrugs when trying to explain it.

“It’s kind of like magic,” she said, chuckling.

Clarion-Limestone coach Ryan Troupe said it may be because she is hyper focused now, knowing that a poor hit with that right hand is sure to be painful. Or it could have nothing to do at all with the pinky, that things have just clicked at the right time for Kessler.

“She’s playing the best volleyball of her life with a broken pinky finger,” Troupe said. “I don’t understand it. Whatever it is, it’s working.”

Clarion-Limestone also may be playing its best volleyball in a long time.

The Lions showed that against A-C Valley. After falling behind early in the first set, Clarion-Limestone dominated the rest of the way. The Falcons’ last lead in the match came at 4-3 in the first set.

Kessler had seven kills and three aces as seven Clarion-Limestone players had at least one kill.

Ruby Smith, who has led the Lions at the net for most of the season, had six kills and three aces. Celia Shaffer also had six kills.

“Spreading the ball around, we’re stressing the defense,” Troupe said. “We’re making them second-guess, which makes them play slow. It also takes pressure off our girls whenever they don’t feel like they’re the only one who has to make a play.”

Clarion-Limestone (9-2), which has won five straight since a loss to Clarion, made few errors against A-C Valley.

“I think tonight was maybe our cleanest match this season,” Troupe said.

Clarion-Limestone looked in synch from the beginning of the match against A-C Valley. The Lions are also playing with a lot of confidence because of this stretch of impressive wins, which included the first victory over Redbank Valley “in at least 10 years,” Troupe said.

Smith isn’t surprised. The senior middle hitter said the success hasn’t come by accident.

“Everyone really works well together,” she said. “We have a really good chemistry.”

Shaffer thinks the Lions have yet to peak.

“This isn’t even our best,” she said. “We can still do better. This is just the beginning of what we can do. I’m excited for playoffs because we’re gonna be crazy.”

For A-C Valley, the struggles continue.

The Falcons were playing without setter Jenna Stefanacci again and looked out of sorts all evening. They couldn’t mount much of an attack with Meah Ielase leading the team with just six kills.

Mackenzie Parks had five assists and Baylee Blauser had two kills and seven digs.

“We haven’t played well for a week, week-and-a-half now. Missing our setter has compounded the situation,” said A-C Valley coach Mike Meals. “I don’t want to take anything away from C-L. They played a very good match. They are pretty much hitting on all cylinders. Kudos to them. We need to get back in the gym and get back to work.”

A-C Valley doesn’t have a match the rest of the week.

“Good timing,” Meals said. “I think it’s needed.”

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