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Nat of All Trades: Bowser Shows of Her All-Around Game in Helping Keystone to a Hard-Fought Sweep of A-C Valley

FOXBURG, Pa. (EYT/D9) — If there is something the Keystone volleyball team needs, Natalie Bowser can usually deliver.

(Above, Natalie Bowser was named the Hager Paving Incorporated Player of the Game)

Whether it’s getting a big kill, a clutch block, an on-target pass, an ace or a perfect set, Bowser has shown she is capable of anything.

She was an all-around star again on Tuesday night at A-C Valley with nine kills, 14 assists, nine service points and three aces as Keystone withstood two huge Falcon rallies in the first and second sets for a 25-23, 25-23, 25-14 sweep.

“She’s a three-sport athlete and I’m just happy to have her during the fall,” said Keystone coach Bryan Mong. “She’s kind of a jack of all trades. We challenged her this year with being more of an all-around player, not just a net players, and she’s done very well as far as getting to the ball and getting her footwork down to get her sets to where she needs them to go.”

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

Bowser isn’t a typical setter or back-row performer. At nearly 6-foot-1, she’s typically one of the tallest players on the court, yet she has quick feet, soft hands and has shown she can place the ball well for the plethora of other strong hitters on the Panthers’ roster.

The senior admitted the transition to the role of a sort of Swiss Army knife wasn’t always easy.

“It’s definitely been an adjustment because I haven’t been setting for the past couple of years,” Bowser said. “Then I got thrown into it this year. But I’ve been working as hard as I can, trying to stay more in shape than I have been before, just to make sure that I’m not winded for any of the games, and I can just keep playing for my team.”

The scoreboard said it was a 3-0 win, but it certainly was one of the most difficult sweeps Keystone has ever put together.

The Panthers were up 17-8 in the first set, but A-C Valley roared back with eight consecutive points to close to 17-16.

Lexi Ruckdeschel had three straight kills during that run.

Keystone padded its lead to 21-17, but the Falcons scored the next four points to grab a 22-21 advantage.

But the Panthers, thanks to pair of kills from Leah Exley and a key block by Bowser, were able to close on a 4-1 run to claim the set.

The second game was a near carbon copy of the first.

This time, Keystone went up 14-5 before A-C Valley went on a 10-1 run to knot the score at 15-15.

The Falcons were up 23-21 with a chance to draw the match even at 1-1, but Keystone again closed strong with four straight kills by Bowser to snag the second game, 25-23, and go up 2-0.

“We let them get out to two big leads in the beginning of both those games and, to credit my girls, they came back,” Meals said. “Their girls were able to finish. They outplayed us tonight. Really, the whole match boiled down to giving up that 23-21 lead in the second game after battling back. That sort of deflated us.”

A-C Valley did lead 9-5 in the third set, but this time it was Keystone’s turn to rally, closing it out with an 11-2 run to complete the sweep.

“The game is all about runs and controlling them,” Mong said. “It was a great game for both teams, one of those that you hate to see somebody lose, but I’m glad we were able to come out on top.”

Exley also had nine kills for Keystone, which improved to 10-1. Kennedy Kaye and Cameron Peters combined for 28 digs.

Ruckdeschel had 10 kills and 10 digs, Mackenzie Parks five kills and 16 digs, Bella Ielase three kills and 10 digs and Jenna Stefanacci 15 assists for A-C Valley.

It was another strong match for Ruckdeschel, who has elevated her game in the middle as a senior.

“Hitting-wise, she’s miles above where she was last year. She’s a lot more consistent,” Meals said. “She’s learned to direct her hits instead of hitting everything straight into the blocker. She still has a little bit of work to do on the defensive end, but it is miles better than it was last year, too.”

With the winning streak over, A-C Valley will look to regroup with a match against Union on Thursday and then two pivotal showdowns next week against Clarion and Cranberry.

“There were some positives to take away from tonight, too,” Meals said. “We have some big ones coming.”

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

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