The high school volleyball teams at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and Hopewell saw their seasons come to an end on Saturday, as both were defeated in the PIAA quarterfinals.
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart was making its second PIAA appearance after tying for third place in the WPIAL Class A Tournament. The Chargers finally got a chance to face WPIAL champion Greensburg Central Catholic and put up a valiant battle, but it wasn't enough to defeat the Centurions.
"The girls were looking forward to this match because we didn't get a chance to play them in the WPIAL tournament," said coach Mike McDonald, referring to the fact that OLSH was seeded second in the WPIAL bracket, but was defeated in the semifinals by Bishop Canevin. "We gave [Greensburg Central] all they could handle, but they were just too strong for us."
OLSH opened the PIAA tournament with a 3-1 win against District 6 champion Penns Manor. Greensburg Central advanced with a 3-0 sweep of District 9 runner-up Port Allegany.
"[Greensburg Central] had more size, more experience, and were a little bit better skilled than we were," McDonald said. "We gave them a very good match, but it wasn't meant to be."
Greensburg Central opened the match with a hard-fought 25-23 victory, but OLSH rallied to tie the match with a 25-21 win in the second set. The next two sets were also close, but the Centurions claimed victories of 25-20 and 25-22 to close out the match.
"Greensburg Central's ball handling skill was the difference," McDonald said. "It's a shame that Greensburg Central is facing [two-time defending PIAA runner-up] Clarion in the semifinals. It should be the championship match. The West is much stronger than the East in Class A."
McDonald used a nine-player rotation, which included four seniors, outside hitter Samantha Ritter, setter Merritt Donoghue and defensive specialists Alexis Clark and Sarah Duncan.
"We lose a lot of leadership with these four girls," McDonald said. "All four had a significant role in our success."
The Chargers do have three of their top four hitters returning in junior middle hitters Kristi Chenarides and Lexie Yoho and outside hitter Tia Scuilli.
"Kristi and Lexi, day in and day out, are our best players," McDonald said. "Both play [Junior Olympic] ball and are very talented. It's great to have them back."
Yoho was voted to the first team All-WPIAL Class A, while Chenarides and Ritter were recognized on the second team. Donoghue was voted to the third team.
Hopewell was considered by some to be the team to beat in the WPIAL and PIAA Class AA brackets, as the Vikings were ranked No. 1 in both polls most of the season.
"All the preseason chatter was about Freeport and that they were the team to beat," said Hopewell coach Terry Borkovic. "We lost four all-state players from last season, so I think we did better than expected."
Hopewell advanced to the WPIAL title match for the second year in a row, but failed to defend their title after a 3-0 sweep by Mars. The Vikings opened the PIAA tournament with a 3-0 sweep of District 6 champion Penn Cambria, but things didn't go as well in the quarterfinals.
The Vikings faced District 10 champion Fort LeBoeuf and lost three very close games, 28-26, 25-23 and 25-22.
"We played a very good team and only seven points separated us," Borkovic said. "It's a shame because we were capable of going a lot further."
Hopewell loses six of its top 12 players to graduation, including middle hitter Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, outside hitter MacKenzie Biggs, setter Monet Smith and libero Sidney Belcastro. The other two seniors are defensive specialists Jenna Pershin and Lisa Graham.
"We lose quite a bit to graduation," Borkovic said. "Shatori will be voted to the [Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association] all-state team for the third year. MacKenzie is a three-year starter and Sidney is the best libero in Class AA."
Walker-Kimbrough and Belcastro were voted first-team All-WPIAL Class AA, while Biggs was a second-team selection. The PVCA All-State Team will be announced in about a month.