MECHANICSBURG, Pa. – When Reagan Bauer’s hard-hit swing went off of West Branch’s Allison Shingledecker and toward the crowd the dream became a reality.
Bauer’s kill, her team-lead-tying 13th of the match sent Elk County Catholic to a 3-0 (25-20, 25-20, 25-12) win over West Branch in the PIAA Class 1A volleyball champion match Saturday morning at Cumberland Valley High School.
“I can’t even explain it,” Bauer, the daughter of ECC head coach Tricia Bauer, said. “It feels so good. I am just over the world excited and happy and just everything right now.”
Also see column: A Championship Group: ECC’s Title has Been Building for Four Years
For the Lady Crusaders (21-0) it was vindication for the seniors who have come up just a little bit short so many times in so many sports.
“It … is … insane,” Tori Newton, who also had 13 kills, said drawing out the first three words. “I am just so thankful, This team is awesome. We knew we could do it. Waking up this morning, we were so pumped. We knew this was our last year to do it with us four seniors. It was nice.”
Don’t miss Newton’s full interview
ECC did it against a team that not only was it intimately knowledgeable about having played against West Branch over and over and over again during the summer, but also a team that had the Lady Crusaders’ number recently beating ECC over the last two seasons in tournament play during the regular season.
But Saturday was different.
Saturday was all about Elk County Catholic and what the Lady Crusaders wanted to do.
In the three sets, they trailed just five times (5-4 in the first set, 11-9 and 12-11 in the second set, and 2-1 and 3-2 in the third set).
“Our players have matured a ton,” Trica Bauer said. “Both times we played them (this season) we played them in tournaments. Those are long days. West Branch is used to playing a lot of long days. We kind of aren’t. But I just think our players have matured a lot. If you go back and look at our first (playoff) game against Otto (Otto-Eldred) and look at the game we played today, there is a huge difference in the way we play. We were starting to trust each other and learned that we have to depend on each other. We can’t just let one or two people do the work. We all have to do the work.”
Everyone doing the work is exactly what happened in the championship match.
In the first set, Lucy Klawuhn stepped up delivering four kills and an ace on her way to an 8-kill, 13-dig performance as ECC broke a 17-all tie with a 5-0 run that set the tone for the match.
“It feels awesome to finally be able to win this big,” Klawuhn said. “(My thoughts) were everywhere. There were nerves but there was excitement. It was just everything. It is just awesome.”
Klawuhn had plenty more to say
In the second set, the big duo of Bauer and Newton took over with Bauer recording three kills and two aces and Newton adding six kills and an ace.
Two of Bauer’s kills came late – points 22 and 24 – helping ECC hold off the Warriors and their big hitter Katrina Cowder whose three kills and a block in the second set kept West Branch in the set.
“I was just trying to get my teammates out of their heads and help them be mentally tough,” Bauer said. I was just cheering them on saying they were fine and helping them with their mistakes. When I made something good, they told me I did something good and it just kind of worked as teammates.”
Here is everything Reagan Bauer had to say
In the third set, ECC left little debate as to who the champion was going to be using an 11-3 run to take a 20-9 lead.
Setter Kiri Emmert fed Bauer six times during the set with Tori Newton adding two kills and Klawuhn and Payton Newton, Tori’s younger sister, also recording kills in the set.
“This feels amazing,” Emmert said. “I think as we progressed in the playoffs we had better defense and got more confident. We thought we could do it.”
Emmert couldn’t wipe the smile off her face on the Cole Orthondotic Assicoates postgame interview
Emmert finished the match with 33 set assists and a team-high 15 digs while Bauer added 13 digs and Payton Newton seven digs and two blocks.
“I am speechless, for the first time in my life,” Tricia Bauer said. “I am like over the moon. The girls played amazing. Our fan support was amazing.”
ECC, the D9 champion, became the fourth District 9 team to win a PIAA volleyball title and the third in four years. But they are the first not named Clarion to stake claim to the crown.
“I said from the beginning of the season, District 9 was going to be tough this year,” Tricia Bauer said. “There are a lot of good people playing. There are a lot of coaches that are putting a lot of time in outside of the season. So, teams are going to start getting better. That’s what we need. I think it is good because the young girls are looking at these kids and saying oh yeah maybe I want to play volleyball. That is kind of cool. I think this is great for District 9.”
Marley Croyle led D6 champion West Branch (21-1), which finished second in the state for the second straight season, with seven kills with Cowder adding six.
Watch ECC gets its medals
Watch ECC get its trophy