Northern Cambria’s return to the PIAA Class A volleyball championship at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg against Nativity BVM, has had plenty of hurdles that the Colts have had to clear.
“It has not been easy for these girls,” Northern Cambria coach Mike Hogan said. “Everyone has been targeting us all season, wherever we play. I am super proud of the way that these girls have handled those challenges.
“They have been very coachable, and done what we had to do in order to win. We set the goal to get back here and we have done that.”
Hogan said as the season has progressed with his Colts winning the Heritage Conference title and the District 6 crown, the path has gotten even more difficult.
“Once you go through the playoffs, the volleyball is different,” Hogan said. “Every team is good. Our team has learned to trust each other and when there is a bad point, they put it behind them quickly.”
On their path to the championship in the PIAA playoffs, the Colts defeated District 7-2 Fort Cherry (21-25, 25-16, 25-14, 26-24) in the first round and District 10 champ Cochranton 25-17, 25-18, 19-25, 25-14) in the quarterfinals. Northern Cambria faced the top-ranked team in the state, District 9 champ Clarion, in the semifinals, prevailing 31-29, 21-25, 25-18, 27-25 to advance to Saturday’s final.
Hogan said that the quick Bobcats will be a contrast to Nativity.
“Nativity has a couple talented players and is bigger and stronger; they can really hammer the ball,” the Northern Cambria coach said about the District 11 champions. “We know that we can’t play soft and allow them to get easy contacts.
“We have to continue to jump and swing while trying to minimize the negatives and exploit the positives.”
Northern Cambria’s battle-tested lineup includes senior outside hitter Autumn Donatelli, senior setter Brooke Lieb, senior middle hitter Jenna Lutch and senior libero Rayna Buza along with three juniors – outside hitter Maggie Hogan, setter Camryn Dumm and middle hitter Emma Kollar.
“The key for us is what it has been all season, first contact serving or receiving,” Hogan said. “If we can have a solid first contact, it will help us to get our offense rolling off of that.”
The Green Wave swept past its first two opponents, Sacred Heart Academy and Lititz Christian, before clashing with District 5 champion Berlin Brothersvalley, surviving a five-setter 25-20, 20-25, 25-19, 22-25, 15-13.
Junior outside hitter Samantha Heenan leads Nativity with 417 kills including 23 in Nativity’s 3-2 victory over Berlin Brothersvalley on Tuesday.
Senior middle hitter Allison Clarke has 334 kills and a team-high 68 blocks. Junior libero Livia Lieberman has 342 digs (23 against the Mountaineers) and junior Kaitlyn Zamantauski has 284, 20 in the PIAA semifinal.
Senior setter Kierstyn Strausser contributed 40 assists on Tuesday and has 920 overall.
The other players expected to be in the starting lineup for the Green Wave are senior right-side hitter Brianna Hornish and senior middle hitter Jordyn Lubinsky.
Hogan said that he is very impressed by the way that the town came together to escort his players out of town on Friday.
“Our school and our community were great,” the Northern Cambria coach said.
“Everyone has made the girls feel pretty special.”