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Dynamic Debut: Burns, Needham help Clarion Volleyball Dominate in Season-opening Win

CLARION, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Korrin Burns soared into the air, drew her right arm back and swung it forward ferociously.

The volleyball made a loud smack off her flat hand and curved downward toward the floor at Clarion High School.

Another authoritative kill.

Burns, a senior outside hitter and Saint Francis University recruit, showed why she’s going to play Division I volleyball next year, dominating at the net as Clarion cruised to a 25-13, 25-18, 25-14 victory over Cranberry in the season-opener Tuesday night.

(Korrin Burns was the Hager Paving Incorporated Player of the Game Tuesday night with 16 kills against Cranberry)

The 5-foot-11 Burns, who earned a spot on the all-state team last year, was nearly automatic with 16 kills. She had eight of them alone in the first set.

Burns, though, admitted she had to shake off the first-game jitters.

Yes, even seniors as accomplished as Burns get butterflies.

“Yeah,” she said, smiling, “it was definitely just the first game nervousness. In the first game every year you have cottonmouth and you’re a little bit scared. But once the first couple of points go by, you start to feel pretty good.”

Burns was the focal point of the offense all night. Senior and first-year setter Noel Anthony fed her continuously throughout the match — and with good reason.

Cranberry had little answer for the Clarion star.

Anthony, who is taking over as setter from four-time all-state performer Brenna Campbell, also shined in her first varsity start at the position.

“What I’m really pleased with is Noel Anthony stepping up in her first start,” said Clarion coach Shari Campbell. “She did a great job.”

Clarion cruised through the first set, but ran into some trouble in the second set, trailing 6-3 at one point.

Cranberry managed to stay with Clarion, knotting things up with Bobcats at 12-12 with three consecutive points before Clarion asserted itself again.

The Bobcats rolled off 11 of the next 12 points to seize control of the second set, 23-13.

Clarion had little trouble dispatching the Berries in the third set for another 3-0 win. The Bobcats lost only one set all season in 2020 on the way to the state title.

Still, Cranberry coach Jennifer Stover was happy with how her team fought against the defending PIAA Class A champions on their home floor.

“We hung in there with them,” Stover said. “We have a team that communicates well. If we can play like that against other teams, I’ll be happy.”

Clarion also dominated from the service line — the Bobcats had 15 aces as a team.

Adia Needham had eight of them with a low-lining, knuckling serve that confounded the Cranberry passers.

“That’s a floater serve that she’s serving,” Campbell said. “You can see how much movement it has and she’s hitting it hard. She does that very, very well for us.”

“Serve-receive is a big weakness for us,” Stover said. “We’ve been working on it.”

For Clarion, the win was a nice way to start the defense of its state title.

Burns was just happy to finally get on the floor in a real game.

“It just seems like we’re starting so late this year,” she said. “September 7. It seems like we should be starting in August. We’ve been working since June. We’ve been going to open gyms, lifting, going to practice, getting ready for this.”

Burns said the team has been trying to draw a line between last season and this one.

The state title in 2020 was great. But this is 2021 and this Clarion team has only one win so far.

The journey has just begun.

“We were really excited to get this season started,” Burns said. “You know what, last year was great and everything, but we’re coming for this next state championship. So let’s go get it.”