TYRONE - Hollidays-burg's reward for knocking off rival Altoona in the District 6 Class AAA semifinals was a matchup with two-time defending champion State College.
The Lady Little Lions proved to be too much, however, as they defeated the Lady Tigers in every facet, 25-8, 25-5, 25-16 to capture their third straight title on Wednesday at the Tyrone Middle School.
"They're [State College] playing well. They know their positions," Hollidaysburg coach Ted Bloom said. "They know what to expect. A lot of those girls have played at this level last year, so knowing what to expect really helped them out."
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Hollidaysburg’s Sierra Kirsch (23) and Jessica Brumbaugh go up for a block against?State College’s Sydney McNulty.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Lady Tiger Rachel Sibold (7) tries not to interfere with teammate Madison?Clapper.
This was a Hollidaysburg squad not accustomed to playing in games at this level. The Lady Tigers haven't been in the finals since the early 1990s.
State College (22-4-4) showed it was more than ready as it put Hollidaysburg away early in the first set by jumping out to an 8-3 lead behind six straight service points from Kyla Irwin. The final three came via aces.
Leading 13-6, Sydney McNulty went on a run of her own as she tallied five of her match-total of six to push the State lead to 18-6.
Christine Irwin's five service points had the Lady Little Lions at set point with a 24-7 advantage.
"We went and watched them [Hollidaysburg] play Altoona the other night. We saw that they could serve the ball fairly well," State College coach Chad Weight said. "We wanted to see what they could do with our serves. That made us as coaches feel a little bit better, once the game got going, that things kind of came to fruition that that's what we thought was going to happen."
Hollidaysburg (10-7) found themselves in a deep hole to start off the second set as Christine Irwin picked up where she finished the first by reeling off 10 straight points, including three aces.
"Our serve-receive was our biggest struggle," Bloom said. "We could not run an offense without passing and, tonight, passing was a huge, huge issue. It's something we'll definitely work harder on for next year."
The Lady Tigers scored four of the next six points before State College's Janae Moran found a groove and served up seven points. Erika Del Pilar subbed in for Moran and registered two points of her own to increase the SC lead to 21-4.
"At first, we were kind of picking on people [with our serves]. But then it was kind of more spots," Weight said. "I wasn't sure, but I don't think that they had seen anybody quite like us - the tempo of the offense and some bigger kids [we have]."
North Carolina recruit Taylor Leath finished off the Lady Tigers in the second set by serving two aces in the final three points.
"We practiced yesterday really focusing on the bigger hitters hitting at them with myself and some other people," Bloom said. "The caliber of players State College has is unreal. They have a great program."
Down 2-0, Hollidaysburg could have folded but the resilient Tigers battled in the third set.
Minus a 1-0 lead on a point from Elizabeth Yacobucci, Hollidaysburg trailed the entire set, but the never allowed the Lady Little Lions to get too far away as they kept chipping back into. The closest they would get would be at 8-7 on a service point by Alex Scheel as Yacobucci took a pass from Sierra Kirsch and slammed it in over for a kill.
With the Lady Tigers trailing by just five (16-11), Kyla Irwin put together two aces, before Rachel Sibold added two of her own to trim State's lead to 18-14.
The Lady Little Lions would close out the set and the match by scoring seven of the next nine points.
An assist by Moran on a Christine Irwin kill ended the match and gave the Lions another district championship.
Yacobucci registered five digs, three kills and two service points, while Sibold added six digs and four points.
Christine Irwin tallied 16 service points and eight kills for State College. Kyla Irwin totaled 12 points, and five blocks, while Moran had 10 points, 22 assists and five digs.
"They [Hollidaysburg] made big leaps and bounds this year," Bloom said. "Some of them just didn't understand the level of play that we [as coaches] were trying to push them to this year."
HOLLIDAYSBURG: Rachel Sibold 4, Elizabeth Yacobucci 2, Sierra Kirsch 1, Alex Scheel 1, Hannah Civils 1.
STATE COLLEGE: Christine Irwin 16, Kyla Irwin 12, Janae Moran 10, Sydney McNulty 6, Taylor Leath 4, Alli Henderson 3, Erika Del Pilar 2.
HOLLIDAYSBURG: Rachel Sibold 6, Elizabeth Yacobucci 5.
STATE COLLEGE: Abbey Harrington 6, Janae Moran 5.
HOLLIDAYSBURG: Elizabeth Yacobucci 3, Alex Scheel 1.
STATE COLLEGE: Taylor Leath 13, Christine Irwin 8.
HOLLIDAYSBURG: Sierra Kirsch 4.
STATE COLLEGE: Janae Moran 22.
STATE COLLEGE: Kyla Irwin 5.
Records: Hollidaysburg (10-7); State College (22-4-4)