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Dream Season: Clarion Volleyball One Win Away from State Title

CLARION, Pa. – The Clarion Area volleyball team has become a perennial state playoff contender, and after a dominant regular season and playoff campaign, the Bobcats are set to contend for their second title in program history.

(Photo by Kirkland Photography.)

Clarion will face Marian Catholic for the top prize, with the game taking place at Cumberland Valley High School at 10:30am on Saturday, November 21. Explore Clarion and D9 Sports reached out to Clarion head coach Shari Campbell to get her take on Clarion’s phenomenal season, as well as their upcoming title match.

All season long, the Bobcats have executed at a high level, dropping only one set all season on their path to the state finals. Clarion’s success hasn’t surprised Coach Campbell, who expected her team to play at a high level this season. “I really think it’s something I expect of them,” said Campbell. “There are a lot of kids with [good] ball control, and there are a lot of kids on the court who have been around the game for so long that their ability to read the game is outstanding.” Clarion’s organized and controlled attack has paid dividends for the Bobcats, who are constantly able to set up their skilled hitters for kills.

Campbell believes that an emphasis on setter and passing training makes enables her complicated offense to run smoothly. “We tutor skill a ton, and I always work with my setters individually for about 15 minutes a day. Our setter training is specific, and I think that’s what sets our program apart. Our passers train very specific techniques in platform and footwork, and [our practice focuses] make everything possible.”

Campbell gives her setters and hitters, including all-state setter Brenna Campbell, control over the team’s shot selection and play calling. Coach Campbell encourages her team to be “intuitive” players and to “think and solve problems on their own,” which helps the team pick the best offensive option as frequently as possible, especially during long rallies.

Clarion’s skilled ball control has enabled Clarion’s two star hitters, Korrin Burns and Erica Selfridge, to tear through opposing defenses. With the pair each presenting dangerous scoring opportunities, it is a challenge for other teams to stop Clarion’s offense. “There’s no rest for the opposing defense,” said Campbell. “It’s not like you find that hitter finally rotating to the back row and get some relief. When one [of Burns and Selfridge] rotates to the back row, the other comes to the front row, and they both have aggressive back row attacks too.” The impressive versatility of Burns and Selfridge has accounted for 547 kills in 66 sets this season, with Selfridge leading the state in hitting percentage.

Campbell has focused on a bold and aggressive style of play all season, with her mantra to “handle problems up high, instead of down low” resonating well with her team. “Sometimes air is time,” said Campbell, referring to her team’s defensive work. “If you set the ball high enough as a non-setter, it gives the hitter some time to get their feet to the ball and they can be aggressive.” By consistently creating aggressive shot opportunities, Campbell’s squad can put pressure on their opponents, something that Campbell wants to emphasize in Clarion’s upcoming match against Marian Catholic.

Marian Catholic defeated Sacred Heart Academy in a close five set match to advance to the state finals. Campbell described Marion Catholic as a “solid team” that is “very well-rounded and serve[s] tough,” presenting a tough opponent for the Bobcats. Campbell believes that playing Clarion’s signature brand of aggressive volleyball will set the Bobcats up for success. “[To win] we are going to need to be bold, put the pressure on, make their passing break down, and take them out of their system [while] staying in our own system,” said Campbell, who trusts her team’s game plan and their ability to execute.

In practice this week, Campbell is focusing on execution and skill work. “We are just going to hone in on our game plan and tutor skill work so that everyone feels confident. We are also going to work on specific hitting scenarios that I think will put pressure on Marian Catholic.” Both emphases should serve the Bobcats well as they look to capture the state title.