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Not just a victory: Altoona celebrates Dodson’s memory with win over rival Tigers in come-from-behind fashion

Photo for the Mirror by Chuck Meyers Hollidaysburg’s Morgan O’Neill returns a shot past Lady Spikers Andrea Kiser (3) and Ireland McClelland Thursday night at the Altoona Junior High Fieldhouse.

Thursday night at the Altoona Area Junior High School Fieldhouse was about more than just a volleyball match. It was about honoring someone who left her mark on Lady Spikers history.

“She was an incredible athlete, but even more than an incredible athlete, Erin (Dodson) was an incredible person,” Altoona coach John Saboe said. “Erin is just an incredible model for our kids to live up to.”

Dodson was a one-time star on the Lady Spikers team, who also played collegiately at Juniata. She passed away several years ago after a battle with cancer.

“I would love to tell you that Erin was watching down us tonight, but along with Erin’s help, I thought our team showed some real heart, and some real fire,” Saboe said.

That team faced an early two-set deficit, but rallied back to defeat crosstown rival Hollidaysburg in five sets, 17-25, 26-28, 25-19, 25-23, 15-8 on Erin Dodson Memorial Scholarship Night.

“We had two great sets, then they had two great sets, and we battled in five,” Hollidaysburg coach Dean Grenfell said. “I just told them I love everything that happened. We’re out here, we’re playing, we’re playing hard, we never gave up.

“Does it sting a little to win the first two and lose the next three? Absolutely, but a sting is nothing.”

The Lady Tigers had early control of the first set, led in large part to a combined six aces from both Reagan Ferguson and Allison Barton.

Barton led the way with 18 service points and 10 aces, while Ferguson racked up 14 service points.

“It’s building up their confidence to where they understand that ‘Yeah, you can play with these teams, you can run with these teams.’ It all came together tonight against a good Hollidaysburg team,” Saboe said.

Their confidence started showing in set three.

Altoona took command, powered by a kill from MiJa’Nae White. She racked up 10 blocks on the night as the Lady Spikers had hold off a Lady Tiger rally.

Ireland McClelland made sure the comeback stood tall for Altoona as she came up with one of her five blocks to tie the match. The lone Altoona senior finished with 18 kills.

“We’ve asked a ton of her, to be the leader of the team, to be the put-away hitter for this team,” Saboe said. “We’ve told our setters feed her the ball, and they’ve done an excellent job of getting her the chances to hit.

“She put our team on her back.”

Julia Savino record 20 digs and Anna Batrus contributed 17 for the winners.

Grenfell appreciated to be a part of the Blair County rivalry for the first time since taking the reigns at Hollidaysburg.

“I don’t know if you get this atmosphere in a district game,” he said. “I loved everything about the energy that this gym brought, and thank you Altoona for bringing it.”

Hollidaysburg’s focus will now shift their focus towards Monday’s road trip to Huntingdon while Altoona will head to Somerset the same day.

SERVICE POINTS

HOLLIDAYSBURG: Barton 18, George 4, Simpson 6, O’Neill 3, Ferguson 14, Lear 4.

ALTOONA: Stroup 11, Savino 10, Batrus 6, McClellan 5, Long 5, Kiser 4, Albright 2.

Records: Hollidaysburg (3-2); Altoona (2-3).

JV: Altoona, 25-21, 25-19.

Officials: Clark Adelman, Bill Wolf

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