MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (EYT/D9) — It hit Korrin Burns not long after the match.
It sunk in for Noel Anthony, too.
All they had accomplished.
The history they had made.
They swiped away tears as they spoke about it. Two straight PIAA Class A championships. Two undefeated seasons. And doing it all with their best friends.
Clarion did what Clarion has done for two years. The Bobcats imposed their will on Sacred Heart Academy, which was ultimately overmatched and ultimately unprepared for the storm that eventually rolled in with a vengeance.
After a slow start, Clarion dominated the Lions, sweeping them 25-22, 25-13, 25-18 for the state title.
“I’m gonna try by best not to cry,” Burns said. She failed — one of her few failures Saturday at Cumberland Valley High School. “This has been a big part of my life for four years. It’s been just an amazing journey. Coach (Shari) Campbell has been a big part of that. I was actually in practice (Friday) and I was looking around and I was like, ‘Man, it’s my last practice at Clarion Area.’ It was just a lot to take in.”
Clarion (20-0) was loose during warmups. They danced to Whitney Houston and Miley Cyrus. It was in stark contrast to last year, the Bobcats’ first trip to the state championship game when Burns said, “We had no idea what was going on.”
This year, they did. And showed it.
Clarion fell behind 7-4 in the first set — not unusual for the Bobcats, who have traditionally taken a little time to get rolling.
Paytn Simko started the comeback with a kill and Burns got hot. Before Sacred Heart Academy could blink, Clarion had a 10-9 lead.
“I think slow starts are the common denominator with us,” Anthony said, chuckling. “We get our feet on the ground and then we just take off from there.”
The teams went back and forth, exchanging points and swapping leads. With the match tied 22-22, Clarion scored the final three points to take the set — Adia Needham keyed that run with a block and the ace that won the game.
It was a pivotal turning point.
“Emotionally, that kind of put us in a fog after that,” said Sacred Heart coach Samuel Moyerman. “I thought if a point flips there and we win that game, it could have changed the complexion of the match.”
Clarion dominated the second set and cruised through the third game.
It seemed almost inevitable, like most of the 44 straight matches the Bobcats have won the last two seasons on the way to two state championships.
“We were able to get some momentum going into set two,” Campbell said. “Noel really came through. Her setting was really amazing.”
Anthony was a big reason why Burns had 21 kills and Aryana Girvan 10. Simko also came up big on the attack in the chances she had with six kills.
Anthony took over as the primary setter this season as a senior. Brenna Campbell held that position for four years and earned all-state honors after each campaign.
Big shoes to fill, for sure. Anthony filled them well.
“This summer, all that work I put in,” Anthony said, pausing as tears streamed down her cheeks. “It’s great to see it pay off. I can’t thank Coach Campbell and Brenna enough. They really, really helped me this summer. Grace Ochs, our other setter, and Taylor Alston — they really pushed me in practice. Nobody sees that, but in the gym we all push each other so much. We call ourselves the ‘Setter Sisters.’ I just can’t thank everyone enough.”
In the last two seasons, Clarion has won 132 of the 134 sets they have played. The only team to take a set from the Bobcats was Warren this season.
“It’s the best way I could imagine the end to my season and my volleyball career,” said senior libero Jordan Best. “It’s the best thing I could have asked for it all to end.”
Moyerman said Clarion is one of the best teams he’s seen in his coaching career.
“There’s not many weaknesses there,” Moyerman said. “Shari does a great job. She has a great program. When you have a girl like Burns, it makes it very tough. But they’re not just her. Girvan is a great player and they were setting to their rightside today. That was smart and (Simko) had some nice swings.”
The realization of the end is what caused tears to flow for Clarion. They were happy ones, sure, but also bittersweet ones.
Burns acknowledged that after the match as the reality began to sink in that it was over and a new chapter at Divison I Saint Francis University was next for her.
She finished her career with nearly 1,600 kills.
“Before the game started, I brought the team in and we were talking,” Burns said. “I told them how I was so so unbelievably proud of this team. The journey we’ve ben through together has been amazing. It was really awesome and I got to share it with my best friends.”