NS Volleyball 29

North Star swept three games to defeat Windber in a District 5 Class A semifinal that paired two of the state’s top girls volleyball teams on Tuesday night at Conemaugh Township.

The second-seeded Cougars won 25-22, 25-19, 25-18 over third-seeded Windber. North Star will play top-seeded McConnellsburg for the district crown at 7 p.m. Thursday at Everett.

The Cougars and Ramblers had split a pair of regular-season WestPAC matches. Windber entered the week ranked second in Class A of the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association poll, four spots higher than North Star.

“I’m just very thankful for the athletes,” North Star coach Tony Crisafulli said of the 17-1 Cougars. “They played their hearts out. They really wanted to come back and prove themselves.”

On Oct. 6, Windber won the second meeting of the teams in four games.

The 17-2 Ramblers fell behind in each of Tuesday’s three games, but fought back to close the gap each time before the Cougars sealed the win.

“Windber is an excellent team,” Crisafulli said. “Windber is a young team. They’re going to be very tough to beat. Don (Byer) is an excellent coach. He had them up and ready to play. Things that we were working on came together for us, and I think that really made a big difference.

“I thought our coverage was a lot better than it has been. Our passing was a lot better than the last time we played. We stayed aggressive with the ball and that was very important to us.”

Windber scored the first point of each game. In Game 1, North Star roared back with 10 straight points to get on track.

“They had their way (Tuesday night); definitely had their way,” Windber coach Don Byer said. “They had everything planned out to where they took advantage of some of our weaknesses. Actually, they fed off of some of our strengths, also. My hat’s off to North Star. They played very well, a lot different than the last time we met.”

Junior outside hitter Karen Schmidt had 14 service points, including four aces, and seven kills. Senior libero Tabatha McCormick had six service points and 12 digs. Sophomore middle hitter Emily Lohr had 24 kills, and junior setter Chelsea Danel had 10 service points and 25 assists.

“We wanted to stay aggressive and fight through everything,” Crisafulli said. “Karen came through with some very important serves. Her jump serve was on the money. When we needed it, she did a great job of serving the ball.”

Byer commended North Star and praised his team’s effort as well.

“We’re both good teams,” Byer said. “It’s been a fantastic year. We only have two seniors graduating. We have a great core returning, sophomores and juniors. We’ll be back here again. So will North Star.”

The Cougars didn’t spend much time celebrating.

“The one thing we need to be careful about is that it was a big win, but it was one win and we haven’t really won anything yet,” Crisafulli said.

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