MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (EYT/D9) — It’s been a run that has largely lacked drama.
All season, the Elk County Catholic volleyball team has been dialed in.
During the District 9 and PIAA Class A playoffs, the Crusaders have been even more focused.
And have piled up the sweeps.
ECC got another one Saturday morning, dispatching West Branch 25-20, 25-20, 25-12 to win the state title.
“This group of girls are a very special group,” said Elk County Catholic coach Tricia Bauer. “They played an awesome game today and it was so fun to watch and be a part of this.”
Reagan Bauer had 13 kills. So did Tori Newton as the Crusaders continued their dominance at the net.
It helped them win nine of the 10 sets they played in the state playoffs, including 3-0 sweeps of Maplewood, the defending champ, and West Branch, the No. 1-ranked team in the state.
“It is an unreal feeling,” said senior Lucy Klawuhn, who had eight kills and 13 digs. “It’s probably one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.”
Most of the seniors became starters as sophomores and never lost a regular-season match.
The playoffs were a different story.
It was in the postseason when things went awry for ECC, including a quick first-round exit last year.
That served as motivation for this season.
One final shot. Make it a good one.
And the Crusaders certainly did.
“I genuinely can’t express how great of a feeling this is,” Newton said. “The team has worked so hard and it feels so good to be the state champions.”
The state championship match was an emphatic proclamation that ECC deserved to be the best Class A team in the state.
The Crusaders never trailed in a set by more than two points. They played well at the service line, on serve-receive and on the attack.
Up 2-0, Elk County Catholic cruised through the third set — not an easy task as there is typically a natural letdown after taking a two-game lead.
Not for the Crusaders. They were determined to take care of business.
They made sure there would be no comeback to wrap up an undefeated season.
It’s Elk County Catholic’s first state title. It’s also the third championship in four years for District 9 Class A teams. Clarion won it in 2021 and 2022.
The Crusaders lost in the state title match in 1985 and 1986.
But not in 2023.
“It was awesome,” Newton said of finally breaking through. “That’s the way we wanted it all to happen. You play your best volleyball during this time of the year and keep progressing every game, and we did that. I’m just so proud of this team and everything we have accomplished.”