CLEARFIELD – Northern Cambria is going dancing.
Since the end of last season, the Lady Colts volleyball players focused their goal directly on the state title.
The girls can taste it now, and with a victory over District 9 champion Clarion in the PIAA Class A semifinals, the defending champions are just one win away from reclaiming their crown.
Northern Cambria defeated Clarion in four sets 31-29, 21-25, 25-18, 27-25) Tuesday night at Clearfield High School to advance to Saturday’s state championship game.
“We’re going to the dance,” Northern Cambria coach Mike Hogan said. “It’s always a special event when you’re going to play in the state final. We’re honored to be there and excited to get down there.”
The Colts (22-1) were led with a strong defensive effort that was spearheaded by libero Rayna Buza.
Buza flew all over the court, as she saved several broken plays to jumpstart the offensive attack.
“We just worked as a team,” Buza said. “We knew what our duties were. We just fulfilled them tonight.”
Her defensive savviness was critical in the early stages of the game.
Both teams fell victim to unforced errors as the weight of the moment intensified nerves. Several serves fell short of the net or sailed wide out of bounds as neither team could gain any traction.
“We missed some more serves than we usually do tonight,” Hogan said. “You forget about your normal routine and what you’re supposed to do. We settled down, and it went our way in the end.”
The Colts worked hard and earned valuable points, but those were quickly washed away with serving errors.
While the team typically kept a positive attitude in those difficult situations throughout the year, Northern Cambria slowly began to lose its temper.
“We had lots of frustration,” Buza said. “We just weren’t talking for a few points. But once we started talking and working together, we were back. We clicked again.”
The tides began to shift in the third set.
After coming together as a team, the Lady Colts gained momentum and cruised with a 6-1 run as they sailed through the set.
“You have to look at it from a team perspective,” junior setter Camryn Dumm said. “If you miss a serve, you have to shake it off because there is a whole team in front of you that needs you. You have to focus on getting that next dig or that next serve-receive. Just focus on playing as a team.”
Another late comeback in the fourth set closed out the night.
Clarion was throwing everything and the kitchen sink at the Colts, but numerous Bobcat attacks were quickly stifled by senior middle hitter Jenna Lutch.
“I thought Jenna Lutch had a fantastic match today,” Hogan said. “She really stepped her game up and had some key blocks.”
If anything did slip through the cracks, the back row was able to pick up the slack.
“We have a lot of trust in each other,” Dumm said. “We know that if one of us makes a mistake, someone else is going to be there to pick it up. Our team just has a really good bond, and we all trust one another.”
With the Colts holding the fort on defense, the big guns were able to go to town.
Junior Maggie Hogan, who had struggled around the net at points throughout the match, led a 5-0 run and earned the kill on set point to send her team into the championship game.
“We knew what we had to do,” Dumm said. “We just went out and got it done.”
Northern Cambria now advances to the PIAA Class A championship game this Saturday against Nativity, which outlasted Berlin Brothersvalley in five sets. The match takes place at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg at 10:30 a.m.
“We have to work hard in practice and not take any day for granted,” Dumm said. “We have to work day-by-day, and hopefully the outcome is good.”