TYRONE - Volleyball is "The Thing" in State College. Whether it's Penn State or State High, volleyball is king. Or queen, depending on the time of year.
State High's Little Lions captured another District 6 Class AAA boys' championship on Tuesday night, sweeping the Altoona Mountain Lions in three games at the Tyrone Middle School.
"When your passing doesn't come together, you're not going to be able to run the things you want to do in system," Altoona coach John Saboe said, "and that was our biggest problem [Tuesday]."
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Altoona’s Mitchell Snyder reacts after State College picked up another point in Tuesday’s championship contest.
State jumped out to early leads in all three games and rolled to easy wins, 25-12, 25-15 and 25-17.
"We couldn't get it together. We were out of system the entire time," Saboe said. "When you're out of system, you become predictable, and State College was able to sit on everything we were doing offensively, and it made it easy for them to run their offense."
Neither Saboe or State High coach Kim-Li Kimel knew exactly how many district titles the Little Lions have won, but both agreed it's more than a few.
"I don't know the last time they didn't win," Saboe said.
"I've been [coaching State] 12 years, and I think we've won every year but two," Kimel said.
The Little Lions won the PIAA Class AAA State Championship in 2010. Although their starting lineup is basically new, the Little Lions have developed into another title contender.
"We have several players returning to our program," Kimel said, "but this starting rotation is new.
"They spent a really long, emotionally-challenging year as juniors," she said, "behind a very talented senior team. This year, they're happy to get their shot and get on the court.
"Early in the season, it was very evident, even though we had height and potential, we lacked experience, and it took us longer to get a smooth finish."
Now 13-2, State plays Erie McDowell in a regional match tonight in DuBois.
"Right now, I think we're exactly where we need to be," Kimel said. "McDowell is as strong as we've seen them in four years so I expect it to be a battle."
Patrick Moore had 10 kills and eight digs to lead the Little Lions. Daniel Pons had two aces, Evan Hummer had five blocks, and Garrett Nicholson had seven assists.
"I think she lost a number of starters," Saboe said of Kimel, "but she had a number of kids who were working out with that team last year and that makes a difference.
"When you're practicing against state championship-caliber kids all the time, that's going to make you a better team," Saboe added.
Class AAA notes: Altoona finished with a 9-4 record. ... Altoona's last championship came in 1999, according to Saboe. ... It was only a single classification then. ... Altoona stat leaders: Mitchell Snyder, 12 kills; Jeremy Swartz, 4 blocks; Phil Servello, 16 assists; Clay Gingrich, 10 digs.