Lady Spikers’ upset bid falls short against State

By Jim Lane

For the Mirror

TYRONE — After the Altoona Lady Spikers beat State College, 25-19, in the first set of the District 6 Class 4A girls volleyball championship Wednesday night at the Tyrone Middle School, SC assistant coach Jim Gonder gathered the Lady Little Lions around him.

“I told them to play a little harder … go after the win,” Gonder said. “They were playing a little tentative and I told them to dig a little deeper.”

The Lady Little Lions got his message.

State College came back to win the next three sets, 25-19, 25-22, and 25-14 to capture another D6 volleyball title — the school’s seventh straight.

“Anytime you play State College you know you’re going to be in a battle,” Altoona coach Karan Price noted. “Their teams always battle back and they did tonight.”

SC head coach Chad Weight said he didn’t have any doubts, despite his team losing the first set.

“Every year we seem to come here (D6 finals) with a little hesitancy,” Weight said. “I guess they don’t want to be the team that loses (the streak).

“I’ll steal a line from (Penn State coach) Russ Rose — winning is not easy,” Weight said. “I don’t care who it is. I thought Altoona played great.”

Weight noted that his team usually plays better as the match progresses, and SC did Wednesday.

“Some of our kids had off nights, some had good nights,” Weight said. “I told them that’s what good teams do — adjust and win.”

Altoona used a 14-5 finish to win the first set, but the Lady Spikers hurt themselves with several unforced errors as SC won the next three and the title.

SC led most of the way in winning the second set, 25-19. The Lady Little Lions built a 21-15 lead en route to a 25-22 win in the third set and they used a 10-4 run to clinch the fourth, 25-14.

“The speed of their offense, from when we played them before, was totally different,” Price said. “That got us out of system and led to a lot of the unforced errors.

“State always serves extremely well,” Price continued. “We knew we had to pass well, serve well and keep our errors down.”

Unfortunately, the Lady Spikers weren’t able to do that.

“We knew we had a tough road,” Price said. “We had some growing pains tonight, but our kids battled and we’re extremely proud of them.”

Game notes: Altoona graduates five seniors — Brittney Chestney, Maddie Benton, Kizzey Thompkins, Kenzi Irwin and Kaila Clawson. … Altoona service points: Irwin 8, Clawson 6, Benton 5, Emily Albright 4, Fox 4, Hailey Alwine 2. … Other stat leaders: Fox 12 kills, Irwin 10 kills; Benton 20 assists, Albright 17 assists; Clawson 32 digs. … SC leaders: Leah Henderson 16 kills, Chloe Thomson 12 kills, Kacy Sekunda 11 kills; Jess Irwin 3 aces; Henderson 26 assists; Sekunda 20 assists. … SC will face McDowell in a PIAA state tournament first-round game Saturday.