So close, but not close enough.
That's the way Quaker Valley girls volleyball coach Mike Vavrek felt after a Class AA Section 2 showdown with Central Valley last Thursday at Quaker Valley.
Both teams entered the first-half finale with a 3-0 record. The winner would claim first place, while the loser dropped into a tie for second place.
"It was so close," said Vavrek, referring to the Quakers heartbreaking, 3-2 loss to the Warriors. "We had one game end 26-24, another was 30-28. Unfortunately, we lost 15-13 in the fifth set. We gave them all they could handle. It was a real battle."
The Quakers rebounded from that loss with a 3-1 victory against Lincoln Park Tuesday.
Like all coaches, Vavrek preaches to his players the importance of not looking ahead and concentrating on their next match, but realizes that isn't easy when a section title is on the line.
"Quaker Valley has never won a section title in girls volleyball," said Vavrek, now in his third year as the Quakers head coach. "We qualified for the WPIAL playoffs last year ending a three-year playoff drought. Our goal this year is to get back to the playoffs and win the school's first section title."
With that in mind, it's very easy to look ahead to the Oct. 9 match at Central Valley.
"The match was scheduled for Thursday (Oct. 10), but [Central Valley] asked to move the match up one day, so we're playing Wednesday," Vavrek said. "It doesn't matter which day it's played. I'm sure both teams are looking forward to the rematch."
Central Valley and Ambridge shared the section title last season, while Quaker Valley placed third. The Quakers made a quick exit from the WPIAL playoffs with a first-round loss to Blackhawk.
"We had only one senior on last year's squad, so almost everybody is back," Vavrek said. "They saw what it takes to win a section championship and have the experience of playing in the WPIAL playoffs."
Quaker Valley's starting lineup includes six returning starters, including three who were recognized on the All-Section 2 team. Kathryn Wroblewski, a 6-0 junior middle hitter, was a first-team all-section selection. Jade Kost, a 5-5 senior outside hitter, was a second-team pick. Alyssa Bartling, a 5-4 senior outside hitter, was voted to the third team.
Wroblewsi is a three-year starter. Kost is also a three-year starter. Bartling is a three-year lettermen and two-year starter.
"Kathryn is our big-time offensive weapon," Vavrek said.
The other three returning starters are 5-3 junior libero Michaela Sobecki, 5-6 junior setter Ashlee Bacvinskas and 5-4 junior opposite Hayley Rohrbach.
"Michaela has started every match since her first match as a sophomore," Vavrek said. "Ashlee became our setter last year and has improved significantly since last summer. Hayley is in her second season on the right side."
Vavrek has five others who have seen significant playing time this year, 5-5 sophomore middle hitter Miasha Beck, 5-10 senior middle hitter Sydney Lane, 5-7 junior middle hitter Emma Fortuna, 5-7 sophomore back-up setter/backrow Ayonna Martin and 5-4 sophomore serving specialist Hannah Kley.
"The girls have been working very hard with the goal of winning a section title," Vavrek said. "It's still possible, but we have to go unbeaten in the second half."
Quaker Valley had a non-conference match against Steel Valley Wednesday.
The Quakers return to action Saturday at the 12-team South Side Beaver tournament.