UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – What a season for the Cochranton boys’ volleyball team.
The Cardinals advanced to the PIAA championship game for the first time in school history, and while they came up short, 3-0 (25-21, 25-20, 25-19) that doesn’t even come close to diminishing a memory that will last a lifetime.
“It was awesome,” Cochranton head coach Rob Cierniakoski said. “It was a great venue to play at. It was a really good match between two great teams.”
And they were two great teams.
Lower Dauphin is now the three-time PIAA Class 2A champion after beating District 10’s Meadville in 2021 and 2022.
And Cochranton. What can you say about Cochranton?
The Cardinals have a PIAA boys’ enrollment number of 73. That is the seventh smallest boys’ volleyball enrollment in the state and the second smallest among public schools – only Rocky Grove with 71 is smaller.
In vying for a state title, Cochranton beat Saegertown (enrollment 90) in the District 10 semifinals to qualify for the state tournament then took down WPIAL champion North Catholic (enrollment 276) in the first round of the PIAA playoffs before topping District 6 champion West Shamokin (enrollment 125) in the quarterfinals and District 10 champion Mercyhurst Prep (enrollment 160) in the semifinals. The Cardinals then squared off against a Lower Dauphin team that can draw from a PIAA enrollment number of 421, the third highest in District 3.
If this was baseball, it would be the equivalency of Cochranton, a Class 1A school, beating schools that were 1A (Saegertown), 4A (North Catholic), 2A (West Shamokin), and 3A (Mercyhurst Prep) just to get to the title game then having to play a school that classifies as 5A (Lower Dauphin) in the championship game.
“When you are at Cocrhanton, a small school, you are always going to be the underdog, no matter what, even though we have a really good volleyball program,” Cierniakoski said. “We definitely embraced it. But we weren’t scared of that or anything. We went out and fought.”
Cierniakoski and Cochranton will never use size as an excuse, but anyone with a half bit of commonsense understand that size matters when it comes to being able to compete at the highest levels of high school sports.
When you have 73 kids to pick from, some of those aren’t going to be athletes. Some that are athletes are going to choose to play baseball or do track and field (in a co-op). Realistically, the Cardinals probably have somewhere between 15 and 20 kids to pick from when it comes to boys’ volleyball, at the most.
At a school like Lower Dauphin, with over 400 males, that number is probably three or four times the number of Cochrantons.
That makes what the Cardinals did just getting to the title game impressive and staying very competitive in the title game even more impressive.
“I am definitely proud of our kids,” Cierniakoski said. “Our seniors lost their freshman year due to COVID, but then the next three years they were one of the top five teams in the state every single year. There is absolutely no reason not to be proud of them and to have high heads and everything.”
Proud is whatever member of the Cochranton program, every member of the Cochranton community should be. Proud of their Cardinals and what they have accomplished.
Watch Cochranton highlights from the match