Lady Mounties ousted by Indiana in state opener

EBENSBURG – Philipsburg-Osceola girls volleyball coach Dave Eckberg called Tuesday night’s PIAA playoff match with Indiana “icing on the cake” after winning the District 6 Class AA title Saturday.

But the Lady Mounties couldn’t prolong their sweet taste of success as they fell to the Indians, 3-0, Tuesday at Central Cambria High School. Indiana took the sets, 25-18, 25-19, 25-17.

Leading the first set, 13-12, Indiana senior Natalie Cignetti used a power serve to set the tone for the evening as she led the Indians on a 7-0 run to put the first game out of reach. She finished the night with nine kills and a pair of aces.

“We knew it was going to be tough to slow her down,” P-O coach Dave Eckberg said. “We just wanted to limit the amount of swings she had, and honestly I think we did a pretty good job of that. It’s funny because you do that and some of their other players step up and beat you.”

P-O defended the hard-hitting Cignetti fairly well over the course of the match, but outside hitter Aaryn Gray had seven kills and an ace while right-side hitter Jill Bender added six kills.

The Lady Mounties fought back in game two. Junior outside hitter Abby Showers made several quality swings to stake the team to a 17-16 lead. Showers finished with six kills and a team-leading two aces. Indiana turned up the pressure during an 8-1 run to take a 24-18 lead, but it needed to survive some long volleys to finally put the game into its win column.

“One of [P-O’s] strengths is that they scrap after everything,” Indiana coach Malinda Oesterling said. “You think the play is done, but chances are it’s not going to be because they are awesome at bringing the ball back.”

“We do have some physical mismatches with teams we play because we’re short,” Eckberg said. “So we have to rely on hustle, teamwork and relentless pursuit of the ball.”

Down two games to none, the Lady Mounties again grabbed a lead midway through the third set at 14-13. Indiana won the ball back and used a 6-0 run capped by Brianna Dillon’s game-high third ace to take a lead that it would not relinquish.

P-O senior Kylie Scovern led the team with seven kills while adding an ace. Senior Marlee Chutko added five kills from her middle blocker position. Indiana registered nine aces to the Mounties’ five.

“We knew they were going to be a great team,” Eckberg said. “To be able to come here to play a great opponent in a great atmosphere in the state playoffs, the kids have nothing to be ashamed about.”

Philipsburg-Osceola finished the season with a 30-6 record.

Indiana will play Conneaut Lake, which defeated Knoch, on Saturday in the quarterfinals.