LORETTO - The finals of the 2011 St. Francis University High School Girls Volleyball Invitational had a decidedly local flair.
In all three divisions, teams from the Mirror's coverage area competed in the finals, with two squads taking home first place - Central Cambria in the Silver Division and Bellwood-Antis in the Bronze Division.
In the Gold Division, Hollidaysburg made a surprising run to the finals after being seeded sixth following pool play. The Lady Tigers defeated third-seeded Chestnut Ridge and seventh-seeded Bishop McCort en route to matching up with Maplewood in the finals.
Maplewood was surprise finalist itself, coming from the four seed and upsetting the tournament's overall top seed, Northern Cambria, in the semifinals.
In the finals, Hollidaysburg seemed to struggle, falling victim to unforced errors as Maplewood took control late in game 1 and won the championship with a 25-22, 25-14 victory.
"The first game, after we couldn't finish at the end, I think we kind of wore down a little bit," Golden Tigers coach Ken Streilein said. "I don't think the girls would say that they were that tired, but I could see that they were a little bit - maybe a half step - slow. I think that was the main thing."
Hollidaysburg may have fallen short, but Streilein was proud of his team and thought it would be a good boost for its season. The Lady Tigers are currently 3-2 in the regular season.
"This is the first time we made the Gold [Division], so it's really a pleasure to be here and the girls played really well; I think they really deserved to make it into the finals," he said. "We've got a tough game with Altoona this week, so it's nice to have this kind of success, and hopefully it'll carry over to that match."
Central Cambria was the third seed in the Silver Division. Coach Tracey Elkin was unhappy with her team's up-and-down effort in pool play but was glad to see the Red Devils pick it up in the playoffs.
"[It was] a solid finish, but a little scruffy during the day," she said. "It's our history here - they decide to show up late in the day, when everybody's fatigued."
In the finals against fifth-seeded Central, Central Cambria won a tough first game, 25-23, but dominated the second game, finishing the match with a 25-15 decision.
"That's what we've been seeing through the matches through the [season]," Elkin said. "I think this is what they need. I think they're starting to feel that rhythm now."
The Red Devils are currently 1-2 in the regular season.
In the finals of the Bronze Division, Bellwood-Antis - the bracket's second seed - got a pair of serving runs from setter Kathleen Vankirk and used strong net play by middle hitters Katy Leamer and Emily Nagle to pull away from Philipsburg-Osceola early. The Lady Blue Devils never looked back, taking the division championship with a 25-13, 25-15 victory.
Coach Annette Wilkins hoped the win would be a confidence builder for her team, which is 3-1 in the regular season.
"I really think this is the boost that they needed," she said. "They were playing flat Thursday, which was their first loss, against Mount Union. I really think this is going to help them get the confidence that I know they should have."
This was the 11th year for the St. Francis invitational, which this year included 27 teams.
"I am extremely proud and happy with the outcome," tournament director Chuck Gojmerac said. "This was probably the most even tournament we've had in a number of years. It was really refreshing to see a team like Hollidaysburg progress through the years and make it to the Gold [Division] championships."
POOL PLAY RESULTS
POOL A: 1. Maplewood 7-1; 2. Bishop McCort 5-3; 3. Bald Eagle Area 4-4; 4. Tussey Mountain 4-4; 5. Shade 0-8.
POOL B: 1. Northern Cambria 8-0; 2. Hollidaysburg 6-2; 3. Central Cambria 4-4; 4. Rockwood 1-7; 5. Bellefonte 1-7.
POOL C: 1. Westmont Hilltop 5-3; 2. United 4-4; 3. Portage 4-4; 4. Central 4-4; 5. Bellwood-Antis 3-5.
POOL D: 1. Chestnut Ridge 8-1; 2. Conemaugh Valley 5-4; 3. Huntingdon 4-5; 4. Forest Hills 1-8.
POOL E: 1. Richland 9-0; 2. Mifflin County 4-5; 3. Conemaugh Tonwship 3-6; 4. Northern Bedford 2-7.
POOL F: 1. Penn Cambria 7-2; 2. Ligonier Valley 5-4; 3. Ferndale 4-5; 4. Philipsburg-Osceola 2-7.
GOLD DIVISION PLAYOFF BRACKET
Play-in: Westmont Hilltop (8) d. Ligonier Valley (9), 25-10. First round: Northern Cambria (1) d. Westmont Hilltop, 25-20; Bishop McCort (7) d. Richland (2), 25-23; Maplewood (4) d. Penn Cambria (5), 25-21; Hollidaysburg (6) d. Chestnut Ridge (3), 31-29. Semifinals: Maplewood d. Northern Cambria, 26-24, 20-25, 15-11; Hollidaysburg d. Bishop McCort, 25-19, 25-22. Finals: Maplewood d. Hollidaysburg, 25-22, 25-14.
Hollidaysburg stats: Kelsey Salyards, 28 kills; Sara McGarvey, 14 kills, 4 blocks; Katie Reed, 40 assists, 23 service points; Meghan Daisley, 39 service points, 25 assists.
SILVER DIVISION PLAYOFF BRACKET
Play-in: Huntingdon (8) d. Ferndale (9), 25-22. First round: Conemaugh Valley (1) d. Huntingdon, 25-20; United (2) d. Tussey Mountain (7), 25-18; Central (5) d. Portage (4), 25-22; Central Cambria (3) d. Bald Eagle Area (6), 25-13. Semifinals: Central d. Conemaugh Valley, 13-25, 25-23, 15-9; Central Cambria d. United, 25-17, 22-25, 15-13. Finals: Central Cambria d. Central, 25-23, 25-15.
BRONZE DIVISION PLAYOFF BRACKET
Play-in: Shade (9) d. Forest Hills (8), 25-20. First round: Mifflin County (1) d. Shade, 25-10; Bellwood-Antis (2) d. Bellefonte (7), 25-13; Philipsburg-Osceola (4) d. Northern Bedford (5), 25-15; Conemaugh Township (3) d. Rockwood (6), 25-19. Semifinals: Philipsburg-Osceola d. Mifflin County, 25-17, 14-25, 15-9; Bellwood-Antis d. Conemaugh Township, 25-19, 25-20. Finals: Bellwood-Antis d. Philipsburg-Osceola, 25-13, 25-15.