Connect with us


Keystone Rolls to First District 9 Volleyball Championship in 29 Years

FOXBURG, Pa. (EYT/D9) — The Keystone volleyball team watched last year as Redbank Valley celebrated a District 9 Class 2A title. 

They saw the unbridled joy. The enthusiasm. The pure exhilaration of that moment and desperately wanted to feel it, too. 

The Panthers had to wait a year.

And it was a challenging year. A COVID-19 shutdown. A slow start. Playing eight matches in 11 days to catch up. But Keystone persevered and came out Thursday night against familiar rival Redbank with a year’s-worth of pent up emotion.

Heeter Lumber Logo 2 (1)
Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.

It showed on the court at A-C Valley High School. Keystone didn’t let Redbank Valley breathe at the net or on serve-receive, rolling to a 25-17, 25-16, 25-14 sweep of the Bulldogs to win the D9 Class 2A crown. 

It was the first district volleyball title for Keystone since 1992.

“We came to play,” said senior outside hitter Jozee Weaver, who carried around the championship trophy clutched tightly in her arms. “It was nice to do it in three sets. We were here to win. We knew we were gonna win it.”

Weaver had a team-high 17 service points to go with five kills and three aces as Keystone served exceptionally well, keeping the Bulldogs out of system for much of the night. 

The Panthers did just about everything a high level.

Keystone got off to a torrid start, building leads of 9-3 and 14-6 in the first set. Even when Redbank Valley closed the gap to 15-12, the Panthers surged ahead again and closed out the game.

“That was huge,” said Keystone junior outside hitter Leah Exley, who had a team-leading 12 kills. “Normally we start slow, but coming out with some fire drove us. It was like we were driving a truck and we just kept stomping down on the gas the whole way.”

Redbank Valley’s biggest lead in any set came at 12-9 in the second. But, again, Keystone used a big run to pull ahead for good and then closed it out with six consecutive points for a 2-0 lead. 

Exley was big in that second set with five kills, including three straight thunderous hits to put it out of reach.

Early on, Exley was worried. She struggled in pregame warmups and started slowly. But once she got into a groove, she was virtually unstoppable.

“I started off a bit rocky,” Exley said. “Warmups didn’t go the greatest, but then I got some sets and I got my arm loosened up. I started pounding it because I was getting the sets I wanted and they didn’t have any blockers there. It was just wide open.”

Between the second and third sets, Keystone players peered at each other in the huddle, looking into each other’s eyes.

That’s when they realized they were not going to lose.

“We knew in our hearts we were going to get it,” Exley said. “We just had so much energy and belief.”

Redbank Valley could do little to break Keystone’s momentum.

“We couldn’t just pull ourselves out of it,” said Redbank Valley coach Ashley Anderson. “It just comes down to they outplayed us offensively and defensively.”

Alivia Huffman had five kills and Caylen Rearick 20 digs to pace the Bulldogs.

Keystone coach Bryan Mong stressed between the second and third sets that the match was not over.

“I told them, ‘It’s still 0-0. You still have to bring an energy because their backs are against the wall. They’re not going to quit,’” Mong said. “I’m glad they kept that energy up. We saved our best for last. When we came out in that first game and got that lead, I felt pretty good about our chances.”

There was no letdown in that third set. Keystone dominated, leading 15-7 following a kill by Weaver and cruised the rest of the way to the school’s first district title in 29 years.

The players knew the history. They were more than happy to make some of their own.

“This means a lot because it’s been however many years — a long time — since we’ve won one,” Weaver said.

“You know, we have that banner up there that says 1992,” Mong said. “I told them, ‘Let’s put another one up there.’”

Heeter Lumber Logo 2 (1)
Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.