Northern Cambria reclaims district gold

Following Northern Cambria’s win over Purchase Line in the District 6 Class 1A semifinals, coach Mike Hogan said the team wasn’t traveling to Altoona just to lose in the finals. He also said it would be a very tough match.

He was right on both counts as the Lady Colts outlasted Bishop Carroll Catholic in five games for the 3-2 win and their first district gold since 2010.

After splitting the first four games 25-19, 15-25, 25-11, 23-25, Northern Cambria jumped out to a big lead in the decisive game and went on to win 15-7 Saturday at the AAHS Fieldhouse.

“It’s been seven years. There were some butterflies. I can’t even begin to tell you how much improvement my seniors made from last year this year,” Hogan said. “They had a tough loss in the playoffs last year. They set a goal. They accomplished it. There’s nothing better than that in life when you set a goal and achieve it.”

When senior Breanna Lieb ended the longest point of the match with a kill for the win in the game five, she lifted her arms in triumph and was mobbed by her teammates.

“I looked at my setter and said ‘If you can get it to me, get it to me.’ She did and we wound up winning. The only thing going through my mind was kill it, get it down,” Lieb said. “We went out in the first round last year. To finally hold the trophy for the D6 championship means a lot.”

Freshman Maggie Hogan had a match-high 16 kills, including seven in game five.

After spending years cheering from the sidelines as the team won district and state championships, the coach’s daughter finally got to experience it first hand.

“It’s amazing. I’ve been waiting for this my whole life. It’s a dream to be a part of it,” Maggie Hogan said.

The improvement of the upperclassmen combined with the talents of Maggie Hogan and fellow freshman Camryn Dumm created a winning combination for the undefeated Lady Colts, who are now 21-0.

“We have the perfect mix kids. We have a group of seniors who got stung in the playoffs last year and worked their butts off to get better. They accepted two 14-year-olds coming in. It’s been zero drama. They’ve been best friends all year long. They all get along. They don’t care about stats. They just care about Ws,” Mike Hogan said.

As Maggie Hogan reeled off kills in game five, Mallory Bernard rolled along from the service line with five straight service points to give the Lady Colts an insurmountable 9-1 lead.

Lieb finished with a team-high 12 service points followed by Bernard’s 11. Dumm added nine and Nicole Bearer had 8. Dumm tallied seven kills and Bernard had six.

Kate Yahner’s 12 service points led Bishop Carroll. Maddie Murphy added nine. Anna Haigh led the team with 11 kills, and Yahner followed with nine.

Both coaches point to the service receive as a key factor in the match.

“We serve received real well. Paige Kirkpatrick, who’s been fighting off an illness, really did quite well on serve receive. Her passes were spot on all the time,” Mike Hogan said. “Maggie (Hogan) and Mallory Bernard passed very well. Very, very few bad passes on our side. When we do that it gives us a chance to get our multiple attack going. We were able to come at ’em a lot of different ways.”

Problems with serve receive hurt the Lady Huskies, coach Katie Wyland said.

“We had serve receive issues and were afraid to swing. We were free balling too much. Sometimes it was the serve receive. Sometimes the set wasn’t placed right. We’d start free balling and tipping. Serve received killed us,” Wyland said.

The team that took the early lead won each game in the back-and-forth match.

Northern turned a 7-2 lead into a win in game one. Carroll answered with the same 7-2 lead in its game two win.

The Lady Colts started game three with an 8-2 advantage to take a 2-1 lead in the match. Carroll bounced right back, slowly increasing its lead to 18-12 at one point before holding off a strong Norther rally.

“They’re very, very strong. We’re strong when we want to be strong. Once one of us got up, you just couldn’t chip away at it. It was too difficult,” Wyland said.

Though the Lady Colts rally came up short in the game four, it established some momentum headed to the final game, Lieb said.

“There were a little rattled there at the end. They had such a lead and we kept fighting back, fighting back. When we went to a fifth set, we just said keep it going, keep it going, and we ended up winning,” she said.

By reaching the district finals, both teams qualify for the 1A state tournament. Both play Tuesday at sites and times to be determined.

Northern Cambria takes on the District 9 runner-up Allegheny-Clarion Valley. Bishop Carroll gets District 5 champ Berlin Brothersvalley.

SERVICE POINTS

BISHOP CARROLL: K. Yahner 12, Murphy 9, M. Yahner 5, Clark 4, Haigh 3, Repko 1.

NORTHERN CAMBRIA: Lieb 12, Bernard 11, Dumm 9, Bearer 8, Hogan 4, Parrish 4, Sheredy 3.

Records: Bishop Carroll (21-4); Northern Cambria (21-0).

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