WINGATE – Nativity denied Berlin Brothersvalley the opportunity to return to the PIAA Class A volleyball championship game on Tuesday night at Bald Eagle Area High School.
The Green Wave sidelined the Mountaineers in a semifinal marathon, 25-20, 20-25, 25-19, 22-25, 15-13. The District 11 champions will play defending state champion Northern Cambria, a 31-29, 21-25, 25-18, 27-25 winner in the other semifinal in a 10:30 a.m. title game on Saturday at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg.
“I am proud of my girls,” Berlin Brothersvalley coach Corey Will said. “They came here and gave it everything they had. They left it all out on the floor and played great within the game plan that we set forth for them.”
On the way to the match, the Mountaineers’ bus had some mechanical woes and filled with smoke. The team ended up arriving late, pushing the 6 p.m. start back a half hour.
“We had our highs and lows during the match,” said senior Kiera Booth, who ended her career with 24 kills, 16 digs and seven block kills. “We didn’t play up to our potential and it showed. We just needed to execute a little better, but I’m proud of us.”
Berlin played a bit sluggish in the first set. After a tie at 5, the Green Wave surged ahead and led by as many as six points.
“The first set was all on us, we had 17 unforced errors and lost by five points,” Will said. “There’s no excuse for it. We just came out a little tight."
In the second set, the Mountaineers appeared to have their legs under them, building an early lead, 8-4. But Nativity came back and tied it at 13. There were three more ties and two lead changes before Berlin won on an unforced error.
“I thought we settled in a lot better and got into our offense a little bit,” Will said.
The District 5 champs got off to a strong start in the third set, but again Nativity came back to tie it at 9-all. After another tie at 11, the Green Wave never trailed again.
“The third set was all about Nativity,” Will said. “They were able to run their offense and they dominated. Coming in, I knew they were going to be a little scrappier than us on defense and I thought they did that in the third set.”
Set four, Berlin came out of the gate strong and rolled to the win, leading by as many as seven points.
“I told my girls that this was why I put them through the rigors of tough matches during the season,” Will said. “When the pressure was on, you’ve got to perform and I had confidence they would handle it and they played well in that set.”
The Mountaineers struggled to receive serves in the fifth and fell behind 4-0. But the battle-tested squad persevered and tied it at 12 and appeared to have the momentum. But some controversial officiating calls turned the tide Nativity’s way and ended the season for Berlin.
“You have to start the set strong,” Will said. “We gave up four points to start the set and lost by two. You dig yourself a hole in a 15-point game and it’s an uphill battle.”
Samantha Heenan finished with 23 kills for Nativity, which also got 23 digs from Livia Lieberman and 20 from Kaitlyn Zemantauski. Kierstyn Strausser provided 40 assists.
“It was a battle out there and Berlin is battle tested so to be able to come out and do what we did, I am so proud of our group tonight,” Nativity coach Jenn Daubert said.
Grace Dorcon finished with 21 digs and 11 kills for the Mountaineers while Lexi Yanosky and Carlyn Hay each had 17 assists.
At the start of the 2019 volleyball season, many observers did not expect that Berlin would advance as far as they were able to.
The Mountaineers lose two starting seniors in Yanosky and Booth, who is headed to Villanova.
“They were the two in the huddle each timeout between games, encouraging the other girls and making sure they understood that the season wasn’t going to be over just by bowing down and letting Nativity roll over us,” Will said. “We are going to miss that leadership, there is no doubt about it. They’ve been a huge part of our success the last four years.”