ST. MARYS — Midway through the opening set of Saturday’s District 9 Class AAA title game against DuBois, there was a sense that maybe this time could be different for Bradford.
The Lady Owls, which had lost to DuBois six times over the last two seasons entering the match, led by as many as four (17-13) in that opening game.
But it didn’t take the Lady Beavers much longer to find their groove, closing out that first set with a 25-23 victory and rolling in the final two (25-11, 25-16) to win their third straight district title. The last two have come in straight set victories over Bradford.
“The one thing that any coach will tell you is that you can’t put a stat on momentum,” Bradford head coach Steve Daniels said. “And volleyball is a sport where momentum can either drive you to championships or kill you. It literally looked like the air got deflated out of us (after the first set).”
After a back-and-forth start to the first set that saw the two rivals tied at 13, Bradford (10-8) took the next four points to lead 17-13. The Lady Owls had the lead as late as a 21-20 score, but DuBois (17-1) began to take advantage of some Bradford errors to take five of the final seven points and seal the win.
Bradford, still understandably on its heels, got behind early in the second set before DuBois scored nine consecutive points to pull ahead 18-6 and were able to dominate the second stanza.
The third set featured a more competitive back-and-forth game, but the Lady Beavers got a comfortable lead early and were able to hang on en route to a nine-point win.
“We had complete momentum, and it was nice rolling with it,” Daniels said. “And then, I mean, I can’t fault DuBois for anything. They brought everything that I knew that they would. They smoked the ball at us. The first set was one of those sets that you really hope for when it comes to a championship, but somebody’s got to win and somebody’s got to lose.”
The biggest issue Bradford had in the match was containing DuBois’ serves. Taylor Smith and Lakin Smith had three aces each, and even when the Lady Owls were able to get their hands on the serves, it set up an easy volley back over the other way.
It’s a hallmark of the DuBois volleyball program, which has now won 14 district titles in program history.
“It’s a championship Saturday, but their serves were right under the antenna and on the tape for the most part,” Daniels said. “We had prepared for it and it’s one thing here or there. The moment is great, just live in it.”
Powering DuBois in the match were Sydney Kachalk, Kaylee Sadowski and Cayla Donahue — who all had eight kills. Donahue added 19 digs and Cate Gregory had 26 assists.
Leading Bradford, meanwhile was Erica Marshall with 11 kills and six digs, Alex Asp with eight kills and Laney Kahle had 18 assists.
For seniors Marshall and Kahle, Saturday was the last match of their Bradford volleyball careers.
“The seniors, I’m going to miss them and the rest of the girls are going to miss them,” Daniels asserted. “But they knew what was at stake and the one thing that we preached all year is that there are six girls on the court and not one. They have done a fantastic job of bringing along the freshman, the sophomores, the juniors so that next year hopefully we are back in this situation.”
CLASS AA FINAL
Brookville 3, Kane 0
Brookville won its first title since 2003 by controlling the final two sets after a competitive start.
For the Lady Raiders, Morgan Johnson had nine kills and five aces, while Lauren Herget had six kills and a block of her own. Audri Marconi had another strong match for Kane with 16 kills, while Kalen Johnson added seven kills and an ace.
CLASS A FINAL
Clarion 3, Elk County Catholic 0
Clarion’s volleyball dynasty continued with its 11th D9 title in the last 14 years. The Lady Cats controlled all three sets, led by 13 kills, 6 digs and an ace from Korrin Burns and 37 assists, two blocks, two digs and a kill.
Meanwhile, for Elk County Catholic, Taylor Newton had 11 kills and Julia Aikens six kills and an ace.