Eagles have Devil of a time: Central Cambria sweeps past Tyrone into finals
EBENSBURG — If you looked at the Central Cambria girls volleyball team roster entering the season, you might’ve thought they’d be in for a rebuild.
They were replacing five starters for the 2019 season. However, the core of what was coming back has led the program to a shot at a district title once again.
Thursday night the No. 2 seed Lady Red Devils (21-0) punched their ticket a second-straight appearance in the District 6 Class 2A girls volleyball championship on a kill from Liz Bopp set up by Kiersten Szpala. That completed the sweep — 25-16, 25-20, 26-24 — in the semifinals over No. 6 seed Tyrone at Central Cambria High School.
“We are used to pressure games, and whenever we are battled-tested, going back-and-forth, that makes us really want to win because we’re right there, and we can see it,” Bopp said.
Bopp ended the evening with nine kills and nine blocks while Szpala racked up 32 assists with her three aces.
Starting slow, though, has been a problem for the Lady Red Devils. On Thursday night, they fell behind 6-3, thanks in part to one of Makenna Bauer’s 16 kills and an ace from Reagan Irons.
“Whenever we start slow, we always say ‘who cares?'” Szpala said. “We’re going to be down a couple of points, but we can’t let that get in our heads.”
They didn’t let that get in their heads as Maggie Kudlawiec managed to sneak one over the net for one of her six kills to grab the set-one win.
“We’re super close on and off the court from our seniors to our freshmen,” Kudlawiec said. “When one person plays down, we’re all going to play down. We know we need to get that one person up, and everyone’s going to stay up. “
Cassidy Bezek chipped in with 16 digs.
The Lady Golden Eagles (13-5) meanwhile weren’t about to go away easily, trailing at one point in set two 18-10, Makenna Bauer racked up one of her 12 kills followed by a couple of finishes by Courtney Williams to cut the difficult down to three.
That rally would be stopped another one of Bopp’s kills to finish off set two.
“They’re a real good team,” Central Cambria Coach Jason Layman said. “I talked a lot about don’t let our guard down, because they will sneak up on you. It was fun, exciting, tense match. They got a real nice coach (Mike Kraft) who pushes them hard and they work hard.”
Bauer also had 12 digs while Brianna Foy recorded 10 and Mattie Cherry chipped in 19 assists.
“I told the kids in the locker room I’ve been part of a lot of good teams, a lot of not so good teams,” Tyrone coach Mike Kraft said. “It’s always a lot harder to lose by two than it is to lose by 10 because those errors become so magnified. That one pass that you shanked, that one ball you didn’t get over the net, it hurts when you go to bed at night.”
The focus now shifts to Saturday in Altoona as a familiar foe awaits Central Cambria as they face defending PIAA Class 2A champion Bald Eagle Area. The Lady Red Devils fell to them last year in the title match.
“We were talking about this since the beginning of the season,” Szpala said. “Bald Eagle is a great team. That’s what you have to expect at this level this far in the playoffs. We’re ready for them.”
TYRONE: Bauer 9, Cherry 4, Foy 1, Goodman 5, Irons 2, Rice 1, Tuskovich 1
CENTRAL CAMBIRA: Bopp 3, Bezek 10, Mobley 5, Hritz 5, Szpala 12, Kudlawiec 3
Records: Tyrone (13-5); Central Cambria (21-0).