When Hollidaysburg beat Altoona in five games Monday in the semifinals of the District 6 Class AAA girls volleyball playoffs, it set off a joyous celebration by the Lady Tigers and their fans.
With good reason.
The upset victory, accomplished at the AAHS Fieldhouse, advances the Lady Tigers to the 6-AAA volleyball finals against State College on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Tyrone Middle School.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Hollidaysburg players (from left) Alex Scheel, Sierra Kirsch, Elizabeth Yacobucci and Rachel Sibold walk off the court after winning the second set against Altoona Monday at the AAHS Fieldhouse.
Hollidaysburg's last district volleyball championship was in 1989 or before any of the current players were even born. And, it's been at least 18 years since the Tigers played in the championship game, according to first-year head coach Ted Bloom.
Asked the last time Hollidaysburg beat Altoona in volleyball, Bloom replied: "It's been a very long time since we have. This year, we took them to four games, both times losing in the fourth game by 2 [points].
"Both were really good matches, but the girls really wanted it this time, and they got it."
The first four games Monday went back and forth with the winning teams using good runs to come out on top.
In Game 1, Altoona used a 13-3 finish to post a 25-16 win. Hollidaysburg overcame an 18-12 deficit in Game 2 by using a similar 13-3 finish to grab a 25-21 win.
Game 3 went to Altoona's Lady Spikers, 25-21, thanks to a game-ending 12-8 run. The Tigers again evened the count, pulling out a 29-27 decision in Game 4 after trailing 23-21.
It was all Hollidaysburg, though, in the fifth and deciding game. The Tigers jumped out 7-0 and raced to a 15-4 win.
"That's what you have when you have two good teams," Bloom said of the close games. "Each team gets on fire a little bit, but we were able to capitalize on a few more things.
"[Altoona] struggled serving the first couple of games and that really helped us early."
Alex Scheel (26 kills) and Elizabeth Yacobucci (14 kills) were tough around the net for the Tigers.
"They're our two bigger hitters this year, they're both doing excellent," Bloom said. "Alex Scheel was in the middle, but we had to move her outside because of some logistics we wanted to try. Elizabeth [Yacobucci] was originally in the middle, but we moved her to the outside because we thought her swing was stronger there."
Amanda Parrish led Altoona with 27 kills, but the Tigers' defense did a good job checking the other Lady Spikers, according to Bloom, an assistant coach at Tyrone before taking over at Hollidaysburg this year.
"We know who their hitters are and they know who ours are," Bloom said. "We just did a better job of capitalizing on theirs. We took away [Parrish's] big swing, and that made a difference for us tonight."
Altoona veteran coach Karan Price was disappointed with the loss, but praised the winning Tigers.
"It's tough to beat a good team three times," Price said. "At the end of last year, they played us four [games] and this year they played us four. We won both, but they knew the tide was turning for them.
"Unfortunately for us, we missed too many serves in the first couple games tonight. That gave them too many opportunities which also gave them some momentum and confidence and they were able to use that against us in the end," Price said.
"When you're playing a good team like that, you can't give them that many points off unforced errors and we did that tonight."
After graduating six seniors from last year's 10-4 regular-season team, the Lady Spikers came back for another 10-4 regular-season.
"When a team loses six kids and comes back and finishes the regular-season the same as the team before, that's a compliment to these kids," Price said.
"We lose four [seniors] this year - four good ones," she added, noting Shannon Albright, Amanda Parrish, Jaylynn Luciano and Jenna Abram will graduate.
HOLLIDAYSBURG: Maddie Clapper 10, Sierra Kirsch 9, Elizabeth Yacobucci 8,
ALTOONA: Andrea Parrish 10, Jenna Abram 10, Amanda Parrish 7, Rachel Dibert 6, Shannon Albright 5, Jaylynn Luciano 1.
HOLLIDAYSBURG: Alex Scheel 26, Elizabeth Yacobucci 14.
ALTOONA: Amanda Parrish 27.
HOLLIDAYSBURG: Sierra Kirsch 39.
ALTOONA: Jenna Abram 44.
ALTOONA: Shannon Albright 29.
Records: Hollidaysburg (10-6); Altoona (10-5)