SHEFFIELD, Pa. – Sheffield volleyball had to fight off some early nerves, and a game opponent, but came away from its first playoff match since 2014 with a 3-1 win over Clarion-Limestone Thursday.
The Wolverines overcame a rough first set and battled back from a big deficit in the third to come away with a 13-25, 25-15, 25-23 and 25-22 win over the Lions. Sheffield advances to the District 9 quarterfinals where the Wolverines will square off with Elk County Catholic.
“They are having fun out there,” Sheffield coach Melissa Lemay said. “It started with wins (early in the season) and we kept getting better. It helped build their confidence.”
It took a set for that confidence to show. Though they came into the playoffs as the 11-seed, the Lions opened the match looking like the higher-seeded team. C-L raced out to a 7-2 lead to start the first set.
The Wolverines battled back to get within a point at 13-12, but the Lions answered with an 11-0 run, behind the serving of Brooke Kessler, to get to set point. Sheffield got a block from Lynzie Grubbs to keep the set alive, but C-L ended it on the next point for a 25-13 set win and 1-0 match lead.
“We were the bottom seed, but we came out on fire,” C-L coach Kelly Dungan said. “I’m extremely proud.”
Lemay knew one of the Lions’ strengths was their serve, but the Wolverines struggled with it through the first set.
“(Kessler) killed us that first game,” Lemay said. “I think (it was nerves), but we played like we were the lower seed (that set).”
Sheffield was able to clean up the mistakes in the second set and used a 9-0 run to take control of the set. Annabel Sheldon served four aces during that run.
C-L tried to claw its way back in, but Sheffield held on to tie the match with a 25-15 win.
“Sheffield did a great job exploiting our weaknesses,” Dungan said.
The Lions opened the third set with a 7-0 run and looked to be in complete control. A Celia Shaffer ace gave C-L a 12-3 lead, but six straight errors trimmed the lead to 12-9.
“We were not reading as well and had a communication breakdown,” Dungan said.
Ruby Smith’s kill stopped the Sheffield run, but Wolverine freshman Kassidy Orinko began asserting herself with the next point. Through the remainder of the set, Orinko racked up four kills, two blocks and an ace.
“It’s one point at a time,” Lemay said. You’re not going to go from 7-0 to 8-7 in one point. So we just had to focus on one point at a time.”
More strong serving by Sheldon and timely kills from Emily Leichtenberger and Lynzie Grubbs pushed the Wolverines out to a 23-18 advantage. C-L wouldn’t go away and got within a point at 24-23. Fittingly, Orinko ended the set with a kill to put Sheffield up 2-1 in the match.
“She gets pumped whenever she has a big block or kill,” Lemay said. “But she’s got a quiet power to her. When she gets going, I say ‘feed the beast.'”
The fourth set was a true back-and-forth battle that featured seven lead changes. An 8-0 C-L run put the Lions up 13-8. Sheffield answered with an 8-0 run of its own to grab a 16-13 advantage. The Lions came back to tie the set at 16, but the Wolverines were able to maintain the lead, at least temporarily.
“This was a great match,” Dungan said. “It was our first time in the playoffs since 2006 and it showed what the girls are able to do.”
A pair of Orinko aces and a Grubbs kill put the Wolverines up 21-16. C-L came back again to take the lead at 22-21. Sheffield took the lead for good at 23-22 and finished off the match with a 25-22 win.
“We came together as a team,” Orinko said. “This (win) is a big deal. We haven’t been to the playoffs since 2014.”
For Lemay and seniors Sheldon, Lily Lauffenberger and Emily Leichtenberger, this victory was a culmination of a building process that began five years ago.
“I didn’t want to tell them beforehand that this would be their last game in this gym,” Lemay said. “For them to get a win here, in front of their friends and family . . . I’m super excited for them.”
“This was a nice way to go out,” Leichtenberger said. “A nice way to end my career in this gym.”
Smith and Cass Makray led the Lions with eight kills each. Kendall Dunn ran the offense with 20 assists. Janelle Pezzuti had 19 digs, while Celia Shaffer added three blocks and Kessler served three aces.
Orinko paced the Wolverines with 12 kills and 26 digs. Leichtenberger had eight kills and 10 digs. Sheldon finished with seven kills, eight aces and 22 digs. Grubbs had eight blocks on the night and Kadence Steffan ran the offense with 26 assists.
The Wolverines head to Elk County Catholic Tuesday for a quarterfinal match with the Crusaders. Match time is set for 6:30 p.m.
“We have to play hard and with confidence,” Orinko said.
CAMERON COUNTY 3, CRANBERRY 0
SENECA, Pa. – Visiting and 10th-seeded Cameron County got 21 combined kills from Kaelee Bresslin and Morgan Lorenzo to pull off a mild upset, 3-0 (25-14, 25-21, 25-22), at seventh-seeded Cranberry in the District 9 Class 1A volleyball first round.
Bresslin led the Lady Raiders with 11 kills while adding 13 digs and a block, while Lorenzo had 10 kills, seven digs, and a block.
Also for Cameron County, Mallory McKimm chipped in six kills, four aces, and a block, Taylor Lamont had four aces, Natalee Zukel added seven digs, and Hailey Hilfiger chipped in four kills, two blocks, and eight digs.
Reggie Goodrow ran the offense for Cameron County with 28 set assists.
Ava Ferringer closed out her Cranberry career with 13 kills, four digs, and three blocks. Maria Anderson added eight kills and two digs, Mackenzie Karnes had five kills and three blocks, and Jenna Reynolds contributed three kills and two blocks.
Sara Allaman ran the offense for the Berries with 20 set assists.
Cameron County is slated to play at second-seeded Otto-Eldred in the quarterfinals at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3.
The Lady Raiders lost both regular-season matches to Otto-Eldred falling 3-1 (19-25, 25-18, 25-21, 25-15) at Otto-Eldred Sept. 17 then losing 3-0 (25-16, 25-18, 25-17) to the Lady Terrors Oct. 14 in Emporium.
A-C VALLEY 3, COUDERSPORT 0
FOXBURG, Pa. – Behind 12 kills and 20 digs from Andrea Meals, A-C Valley beat visiting Coudersport, 3-0 (25-20, 25-21, 25-21), in the opening round of the District 9 Class 1A volleyball playoffs.
Eighth-seeded A-C Valley also got seven kills, seven digs, and three aces from Mia Sherman, five kills and 14 digs from Meah Ielase and three kills apiece from Abby Feicht and Lexi Ruckdeschel. Rachel Cullen paced the ACV defense with 22 digs, and Tarra Stefanacci ran the offense with 24 set assists while adding six digs and three aces.
Coudersport got 11 kills and four blocks from Paige Watson, 12 digs and two kills from Vanessa VanWhy, two kills and 24 digs from Avaree Kellert, six digs, three kills, and 10 set assists from Liz Frame, and 12 digs and 12 set assists from Mikayla Kavounas.
A-C Valley is slated to play at Clarion in the quarterfinals at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3. The status of that game could be up in the air because A-C Valley is not having in-person school Friday because of COVID-19 with no practices allowed through at least Saturday – no decision has been made as of Thursday night as to whether that will extend into next week.
Clarion and A-C Valley met Oct. 6 in Clarion with the Lady Cats coming away with a 3-0 (25-8, 25-9, 25-8) victory.