West Xtra: Bridgers courting success
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Ambridge Area High School girls volleyball coach Kim Bogati was happy to see that four members of her squad were popular enough with the student body to be elected to the school's homecoming court ... she just wasn't wild about the timing of homecoming festivities.
Unfortunately for Bogati and the rest of the team, homecoming ceremonies took place while the Bridgers were competing in the Midwestern Athletic Conference Big Schools Tournament, which took place Saturday at South Side Beaver High School.
"The four left after our first match in pool play," Bogati said. "We had to get along without them for the next two matches."
Ambridge had its full lineup for Saturday's opener against defending WPIAL Class AA champion Hopewell.
"They beat us twice, but we gave them all they could handle," Bogati said. "We lost, 27-26, in one game and lost by four in the other game."
Bogati had to make significant changes to the Bridgers lineup for the next two matches against South Side Beaver and Moon, as her homecoming court members returned to Ambridge. The Bridgers split with both opponents, leaving them with a 2-4 record in pool play.
"I was a little surprised to see that we qualified for the gold bracket," said Bogati, referring to the fact that Ambridge was one of eight teams that advanced to the gold [upper] bracket.
At that point, Bogati had no idea whether her players would return in time for their quarterfinal playoff game against Montour.
"The girls made it back 20 minutes before the quarterfinals began," Bogati said.
Ambridge responded with a 25-23 quarterfinal win against Montour. The Bridgers luck ran out in the semifinals, as Mars, the eventual runner-up, registered a 25-14 victory.
"Overall, we had a really good day," Bogati said.
Ambridge won Tuesday's Section 2-AA showdown with Central Valley, 3-0, breaking a first-place tie. Ambridge improved to 5-0 while Central Valley is now 4-1. The match marked the end of the first half of section play.
The Central Valley match was the first of three key matches this week. The Bridgers lost to Pine-Richland Wednesday night in a non-section match. Pine-Richland is ranked No. 1 in the WPIAL Class AAA poll.
The Bridgers returned to section competition at Blackhawk Thursday, winning, 3-2, to boost its section record to 6-0.
Ambridge tied for the Section 2-AA title last year. Five starters are back from that team, including three seniors who received postseason honors last year, Lexi Hilzendenger, Destiny Tucker and Abbey Brewer.
Hilzendenger is a 5-foot-10 outside hitter who was voted second-team All-WPIAL Class AA. Tucker is a 5-10 middle hitter who was a third-team All-WPIAL pick. Brewer is a 5-7 setter who was recognized as an All-Section 2-AA choice.
The other two returning starters are 5-3 senior libero Hannah Krokonko and 5-7 senior opposite Cassie Bucka.
"We have a huge senior class with eight players," Bogati said. "And all eight play."
The other three seniors are 5-7 outside hitter Lindsay Queer, 5-7 opposite Haley Salazar and 5-2 defensive specialist Sydney Kaminski.
The only junior in Bogati's starting rotation is 5-9 outside hitter Nicole Kuhn.