MEADVILLE, Pa. – The heart of a champion.
Maplewood lost a lot of key pieces from last season’s state championship, so naturally, there were some doubters.
The Tigers continued to put that to rest on Thursday, beating Cochranton 3-1 (25-16, 25-18, 23-25, 25-20) for the District 10 Class 1A championship.
“We just worked really hard,” said Maplewood senior Elizabeth Hunter during the Cole Orthodontic Associates postgame interview. “We lost our seniors last year but we knew we could do it. We just worked hard all season and it finally paid off.
See Hunter’s full interview:
Hunter had a team-high 23 kills for Maplewood, which avenged a 3-1 loss to to Cochranton back on Oct. 17.
About midway through each of the first two sets is when Maplewood began to pull away.
In the first, they went on a 7-2 run after the score was tied 10-10, with Savannah O’Hara and Hunter both notching kills as they took control in what was ultimately a 25-16 win.
In the second set it was they led 17-15 before a big 4-0 spurt, keyed by back-to-back aces from Bree Neely helped them take control.
“With every player we lost last year, I just thought we were going to have to fill in with a lot of young girls and they just came through at the right time of the season,” said Maplewood coach Sheila Bancroft. “This was not the same team that played two, three weeks ago. We’ve grown and matured a lot and they believed and they just played together as a team.”
Neely was big defensively as well, coming up with a team-high 25 digs, while Madison O’Hara had 21 digs.
Cochranton battled back, despite being down late in the third set. The Cardinals led 19-16 after a kill from Brooklyn Needler, but Maplewood came storming back after 7-2 run punctuated by a kill from Savannah O’Hara to make it 23-21 Tigers.
Cochranton responded, going on a 4-0 run to extend the match, with Dani Hoffman getting a key kill in the run.
Maplewood took the blow and came back in the fourth strong, closing the set and the match on a 6-2 run after taking a 19-18 lead.
“They trust each other,” Bancroft said. “There was no trust there before. It was knew people playing beside each other. They believed in the coaches. All the pieces of the puzzle went back together. They (Cochranton) know us like the back of their hand and we know them. We knew we had to take care of the ball. Leirin’s (Baker, Cochranton coach) hope and my hope was both teams would play good ball and make it a good match and I thought that was the case.”
Savannah O’Hara finished with 12 kills and Maggie Means ran the offense with 40 set assists for Maplewood.
For Cochranton, Needler had 14 kills, Hoffman 13 kills, Maggie Jackson 33 set assists and Claire McCartney 19 digs.
Maplewood advances to play the WPIAL No. 3 team, either Greensburg Central Catholic or Frazier, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs on Tuesday, Nov. 7.
Unlike last year, the D10 runner-up also goes to states, with Cochranton the WPIAL champion, either Bishop Canevin or Serra Catholic.
“Thank goodness,” Bancroft said. “It took a lot of pressure of both teams coming in. I feel like whether the one or two, it doesn’t make much of a difference. Every team is going to be good.”