Many state high school volleyball followers believe Tuesday's PIAA Class A semifinal match between Greensburg Central Catholic and Clarion actually decided the state championship.
Unfortunately for Greensburg Central, it was the semifinals and the Centurions fell short in a five-set marathon.
"It was unfair to have us in the same half of the bracket," Greensburg Central coach Heather Meyer said. "Everybody felt we were the best two teams in the state."
Clarion, the District 9 champion, placed second in the state the past two years and finished the regular season No. 1 in the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association state rankings. Greensburg Central Catholic, the WPIAL champion, was ranked No. 2. The two teams had met earlier in the season and split two games.
"It was a tough loss," Meyer said. "The girls played hard and did not give up. We gave them all they could handle. We wish Clarion the best of luck [in the title match]."
Greensburg Central couldn't have asked for a better start to the match at Butler Area High School, as the Centurions posted wins of 25-21 and 27-25 in the first two sets. Clarion rallied, however, to claim the final three sets, 25-21, 25-11 and 15-11.
"It's disappointing to have the season end this way, but the girls should be very proud of the amazing season we had," Meyer said. "We finished with a 20-1 record and won our first WPIAL title. It's the best season in school history."
Clarion will face District 4 champion Williamson in the title match at 1 p.m. Saturday at Central York High School.
Senior outside hitter Shannon Hurley led Greensburg Central with 14 kills. Senior setter/right-side hitter Emma Dickson and sophomore setter/middle hitter Leah Bisignani each had 11 kills. Senior middle hitter Ashley Scalise had seven kills and 11 blocks, while senior libero Alexa Kacin had 24 digs.
"We lose six very talented players to graduation from this team," Meyer said. "Five of the six were regular starters. They will all be missed."
Hurley, Dickson, Kacin and Scalise are four of the seniors. The other two are defensive specialist Katie Hickey and middle hitter Veronica Komoroski.
"We have some rebuilding to do, but we do have four sophomores returning who were part of our starting rotation," Meyer said. "We will build the team around them."
Greensburg Central had five players recognized on the WPIAL Class A All-Star team. Hurley, Dickson and Bisignani were voted to the first team, while Kacin and Scalise were second-team selections.
Hurley is considered the top player in Class A. She was voted to the WPIAL first team and PVCA Finest 40 her freshman and sophomore years, but sat out last season with a knee injury.
"Shannon has accepted a Division I scholarship to Winthrop University in South Carolina," Meyers said. "She's the best player I've ever coached."
Greensburg Central earned its postseason berth by posting a 12-0 record in Section 1-A. The Centurions faced four opponents in the WPIAL tournament and swept all four -- Northgate in the first round, Chartiers-Houston in the quarterfinals, West Shamokin in the semifinals and Bishop Canevin in the title match.
The WPIAL title earned Greensburg Central its third PIAA berth in six years. The Centurions advanced to the semifinals for the first time with a 3-0 win against District 9 runner-up Port Allegany in the first round, and a 3-1 victory against WPIAL fourth-place finisher Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in the quarterfinals.
Greensburg Central was one of three WPIAL teams that lost in the semifinals. North Allegheny lost, 3-1, to Landisburg Hempfield in Class AAA, and Mars Area lost, 3-2, to District 10 champion Fort LeBoeuf in Class AA.
The WPIAL has had only six teams win PIAA titles since 2000, when the PIAA expanded to three classes.