Whether it was the two-hour bus ride which was lengthened by a car accident in front of them on the trip north or getting behind a train, the Bishop Carroll bus had the Huskies arriving late Tuesday night at DuBois High School for their PIAA Class A semifinal volleyball clash with Cochranton and the District 6 champions did not look like the same powerhouse squad that had dispatched teams with relative ease throughout the year.
“I don’t know what happened tonight. I’d like to know the answer to that question,” Bishop Carroll coach Joe Skura said after his team fell in straight sets to the Cardinals 25-18,
25-21, 25-21. “I don’t know if their minds were still on the bus or what. We never played our game and played their pace too much. Unfortunately, we had an off night, where everyone shows up and has stars around them. We had a lot of unforced errors.”
Skura sought to explain his team’s malaise.
‘Maybe it’s our lack of experience at this level of the game and they had a very feisty crowd over there,” the Huskies coach said. “We just could not seem to pull out of the slump we were in from the start.”
While the Huskies looked tight and tentative, the Cardinals were relaxed and were actually playing a game of tag prior to the arrival of the Bishop Carroll bus.
“We just wanted to play and have fun doing it,” Cochranton coach Marci Malliard said. “Once our team got comfortable out there, we knew that we could win. We play well together as a unit and that’s the key to winning.”
Cochranton, which will play Marian Catholic, a 3-1 winner over Bishop Guilfoyle, at 11 a.m. Saturday at Central York High School, led by as many as eight points. In the first set, there were four lead changes and five ties, the last one at 10 with the Cardinals going on a 7-0 run to pull away.
“Every timeout, I kept saying ‘play our ball, play our pace,’ and we could not do that,” Skura said. “We did it for a couple points every set, and when we did we did fine. But we let them control the court. When we did have a nice play, they came back with something so quick that we weren’t ready for it.”
In the second game, it looked as though the Huskies finally had their feet under them and they led 12-8 before the Cardinals came back. After a tie at 13, the District 10 champions pulled ahead and went on to take the second game.
“They play a totally different game than we play,” Skura said. “We are used to running a clean offense and defense and they were returning the ball so quickly that we weren’t set up on defense. We just weren’t ready for their attacking.”
In the third game, Bishop Carroll led three times, the final time at 7-5. After the Cardinals tied it at 7, the Huskies fell behind by as many as six points before pulled to within one, 21-20, but were outscored 4-1 to end the match.
“Unforced errors seemed to take control and we were just flat,” Skura said.
Madison Bernarding had 20 service points and Kendell Kickson added 15 kills for the Cardinals.
Janelle Gueguen finished with 27 assists and nine service points and Ellie Yahner had seven service points for the Huskies, who also got 18 kills from Sarah Gomish.
“I will say one thing, I would put this team up against anybody, they are an absolute dream team,” Skura said. “I know we didn’t get the job done tonight, but my heart goes out to them. They have gotten me farther than I’ve ever been as a coach and they are a great group of girls.
“Seven years ago this team was at the bottom of the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference and in six years to be in a state semifinal, I don’t think that I’m comprehending that. I couldn’t be prouder of these kids.”