CLARION, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Aryana Girvan heard the news and wasn’t sure how to react.
Then, she cried.
(Above photo, Aryana Girvan was the Hager Paving Incorporated Player of the Game)
For months she lived under a cloud of doubt. Growing in her brain were several cysts that threatened her life.
An aborted surgery this summer to remove the cysts further muddled things and sounded even louder alarms.
Her volleyball season at Clarion Area High School was in doubt. So was her very future.
“My biggest worry was losing volleyball,” said Girvan, a senior outside hitter who was a big part of two PIAA Class A championships in a row with the Bobcats.
She was a big part of Clarion’s latest victory this season with 10 kills, eight digs and two aces in a 25-17, 26-24, 25-18 sweep of Keystone at home on Tuesday night.
Girvan was able to make that kind of impact because of something unexpected.
She doesn’t want to call it a miracle, but in her eyes it was the next best thing.
After her surgeon prescribed a series of drugs in an attempt to shrink the cysts so he could operate, a pre-surgery scan revealed something shocking.
The cysts were gone, save for one that has shrunk to the size of the tip of a fingernail.
“Once I got the news,” Girvan said, smile beaming, “I was telling everybody. It was like, ‘Game on!’”
Girvan is back to her old self now. The cysts were in areas of the brain that affected memory and mood. She had lost 20 pounds — which is a lot for a 5-foot-2 young woman who’s normal weight hovered around 110 pounds.
With the weight back on and her health better than ever, Girvan is back to dominating on the floor for Clarion, which got yet another sweep against a Keystone team that came into the match at 4-0 this season.
The Bobcats haven’t lost a set since Sept. 20 of last year when they rallied for a 3-2 win over Warren.
They play Warren again on Thursday.
But on Tuesday, Clarion was, well, Clarion.
Relentless. Sound. Sending wave after wave of hitters and digging just about everything off the floor.
“A lot of people doubt us this year, so we want to prove people wrong,” Girvan said.
It’s strange to say that a back-to-back state champion is being somewhat overlooked, but the Bobcats feel that after losing all-state players Korrin Burns, Jordan Best, Noel Anthony and Payton Simko to graduation.
“No matter who we play,” Girvan said, “they are going to be gunning for us.”
Keystone certainly was.
The Panthers were coming in with confidence, but played a tough match just 24 hours earlier against Clarion-Limestone. Keystone got the sweep, but all three sets went down to the wire.
The sluggishness showed at times on the court for the Panthers as Clarion went on big runs in each of the three sets.
“Yeah, it was disappointing,” said Keystone coach Bryan Mong. “The girls were just in a funk. I don’t know if they weren’t ready to play, or they were kind of hung over from last night playing C-L. That’s not on them. That’s on me. I gotta have they ready and apparently we weren’t ready.”
Clarion built a big lead in the first set and cruised to a win.
The second set is where the needle really turned to Clarion’s favor.
Keystone had the Bobcats on the ropes, leading 17-13. Clarion, though, scored eight of the next nine points — keyed by three straight service aces by Taylor Alston — to take a 22-18 lead.
The Panthers rallied, knotting the set at 24-24, but Clarion got consecutive kills from Hadlee Campbell and Girvan to close it out.
Clarion stormed to a 14-4 lead in the third set and cruised again to the win, the Bobcats’ 47th straight.
“We watched the Redbank-Keystone game on the way home from Cranberry (last week, a 3-2 come-from-behind win by the Panthers),” Girvan said. “We knew that Keystone ended up coming back to win from 2-0 down and that they were a very good comeback team. We didn’t want to let them get ahead of us and we wanted to keep those streaks alive.”
Clarion coach Shari Campbell had mixed feeling about the second set.
“Honestly, I don’t really like to get ourselves in a situation like that,” Campbell said. “But now we know we can get ourselves out of it when our backs are against the wall. We can respond. So that builds confidence.”
Hadlee Campbell also had five kills, 11 digs and 13 service points for Clarion. Libero Bri Pierce had 17 digs, Grace Ochs 10 assists and Alston six assists and six digs for the Bobcats.
Natalie Bowser stood out for Keystone with nine service points, two aces, nine assists, three blocks and five kills.
Leah Exley also had eight kills and 11 digs and libero Kennedy Kaye 16 digs for the Panthers.
The beat goes on for Clarion, which is breaking in a slew of new starters this season and is off to a 3-0 start.
“We’re running a 6-2, so we have three hitters all the time,” Coach Campbell said. “We have some lefties in the gym. (Left-hander) Sophie Babington is real patient and she’s like another outside hitter out there because she can adjust — that’s her strong side. (Freshman) Marley Kline has given us a big block. And then Adia (Needham), you’re seeing her do what she does in the middle, which is a lot of blocking. And then Taylor (Alston) and Brenna Armstrong — we’re kind of running three middles a little bit. I think that’s hard for defenses to adjust to the fact that we’re using that many hitters.”
And then there’s Girvan, the one returning all-state player from a season ago, who has a new lease on life and her volleyball season.
“We need to rely on her,” Coach Campbell said. “But there’s a whole lit going on to support her.”