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Lady Tigers unable to defend district title

Aubrey Pupa of Hollidaysburg looks on as teammate Brittyn Davenport gets ready to spike the ball. Photo for the Mirror by Tim O'Brien

TYRONE– The top-seeded Hoillidaysburg girls volleyball team looked like it was set up to repeat as District 6 Class 3A champions after Somerset had to bow out of the playoffs due to a COVID shutdown.

However, the Lady Tigers learned just how difficult repeating can be Wednesday night.

No. 2 Bellefonte got control of set two, and after a little bit of turbulence in the third and fourth, rolled on to upset the defending champion Lady Tigers, 17-25, 25-19, 25-23, 25-16 in the title match at the Tyrone Area Middle School.

“You know that when you get here, no matter who’s on the other side of the net, they’re not going to give it to you,” Hollidaysburg coach Dean Grenfell said. “They made some really good adjustments and outplayed us. I give their coach credit, I give their players credit, a ton of it.”

The Lady Tigers came out strong in the first set as Brittyn Davenport came up with one of her 14 kills, while Sydney Lear contributed one of her game-high 25 digs as part of an early 9-3 run.

Aubrey Pupa capped off the opening frame as she led the match with one of her 16 kills to give the Lady Tigers the early advantage.

That momentum didn’t last long. That was in part because of a play that came in the first set of the match when it appeared the Lady Tigers would get the point, Bellefonte’s Tayla Miller dove into the stands to save it for Bellefonte.

“We started off a little nervous, and then that play that we saved it in the bleachers sparked us and turned it back around and we were able to settle back into what we do and focus on us,” Bellefonte coach Monica Smith said.

That momentum swing was evident in the second set as Bellefonte went on a 9-1 run to tie the match at 1-1.

“I needed to get my girls to adjust and talk to them a little differently,” Grenfell said. “I wasn’t able to get them to move into positions quick enough. It’s not on them, our girls played a heck of a match. Our girls did everything I asked them to do.”

More trouble followed the Lady Tigers in set three. Alexia Mishock got the finish to go for one of her 11 kills to put the Lady Raiders ahead for good after three, making it 2-1 Bellefonte.

The final set came down to Bellefonte’s youth as freshman Madison Melius came up with seven service points for the match, including a pair of aces and one of her five kills. That was capped off by Carlee Pepperman who chipped in with 13 finishes and nine digs.

“(Pepperman) is going to be an issue for a lot of people for four years,” Grenfell said. “We prepared, and she played a great game with a great supporting cast. Best of luck to them in the state tournament.”

Smith — who is in her first year at the helm for Bellefonte– was impressed with how the freshman Pepperman and sophomore Melius handled themselves in the title game.

“We’ve worked really hard with them this year and they’ve really stepped it up and they didn’t play like freshman and sophomores,” she said. “They played like experienced older kids, and they both played incredible tonight and I’m really proud of them.”

Isabella George, in her final match as a Lady Tiger, contributed 11 digs while junior Joelle DeLattre added 12 kills.

Grenfell — whose Lady Tigers will finish the season at 9-10 and lose two seniors in George and Rylee Lear – have had to endure a lot this season, like seeing almost their entire schedule wiped out because of the efffects of the pandemic on his team. He is glad to know that the last result came from playing a match.

“The winner of this game could be going on to see Somerset if it weren’t for COVID,” he said. “I was worried that we weren’t going to play this game as of 5 o’clock (Wednesday). Before we got on the bus, I wasn’t sure that somebody wasn’t going to come out and tell us to go home,” he said.

SERVICE POINTS

BELLEFONTE: Pepperman, 7, Mishock 11, Helms 18, Melius 7, Port 6, Miller 3.

HOLLIDAYSBURG: Pupa 1, George 5, DeLattre 7, Keagy 12, S. Lear 9, Woodring 3.

Records: Bellefonte (8-10), Hollidaysburg (9-10).

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