ST. MARYS — Clarion came out strong and never let up on its way to claiming its second straight District 9 Class A title with a 25-16, 25-15, 25-13 sweep of Elk County Catholic at St. Marys Area High School Saturday.
The Lady Cats never trailed in either of the first two sets in the victory which gave them their eighth district title over the last 10 years, as these back-to-back titles come on the heels of a two-year drought after the team had won six straight crowns.
“It’s always great to achieve, we don’t want to overlook that we are doing it again because it doesn’t always happen, so it is really special and it’s important to enjoy every step along the journey,” Clarion head coach Shari Campbell said. “I’m really proud of them, they focused and I really like the way they played very definitively so I think that bodes well for the next couple weeks.”
Looking to set the tone from the opening point, Clarion did just that, as Maddie Schill recorded a block on the opening point.
KK Girvan then won a pair of service points on an ace and a kill by Schill as the Lady Cats took a 3-0 advantage, one they would hold the remainder of the set.
Elk County Catholic kept things close in the early going, as a side out gave the top-seeded Lady Crusaders the serve facing a 8-6 deficit.
Korrin Burns then took over, as the Lady Cat recorded kills on the next three points, the final two off of Kaitlyn Constantino serves as the stretch began to allow Clarion to pull away.
Later in the match ECC had the serve down just three at 14-11 before Schill came up with a kill allowing Burns to take the service line.
Burns then rattled off five service points in a row, a run that was kicked off by an ace and helped by a kill from Schill and a kill and a block by Aryana Girvan as the second-seeded Lady Cats jumped out to a 20-11 lead.
Ellie Fledderman looked to help get the Lady Crusaders back into the set, as she won back-to-back service points behind a block from Hannah Barnett to trim the deficit to 20-14.
Grach Ochs responded with a three-point run for Clarion behind an ace and a kill from Aryana Girvan to stretch its lead to the largest margin of the set at 24-14.
The Lady Crusaders were able to fight off set-point twice, as Taylor Newton came up with a kill and then followed that up with a service point on a kill by Julia Aikens.
Clarion then put the set away on a kill from Constantino as it secured the 25-16 victory to take a 1-0 set lead.
The second set was nearly a carbon copy of the first, as the Lady Cats took an early lead and never let up, using a pair of strong service runs to pull away late.
Burns got the set rolling with a kill, as a run of three points at the line by KK Girvan helped Clarion take an early 7-2 lead.
Nearing the midway point of the set, ECC got a kill from Newton as it got within four at 13-9 before a side out quickly returned the serve to the Lady Cats.
Burns then continued her strong performance with a trio of service points as Schill came up with a kill in the middle of the run to help give Clarion a 17-9 edge.
Burns finished with nine service points along with a match-high 13 kills, while Jordan Best led Clarion with 11 service points and Constantino also added nine.
At the net, Schill added nine kills for the Lady Cats while Constantino chipped in seven and Aryana Girvan had six.
Elk County Catholic would not go down without a fight, as kill by Newton followed by a four-point run by Fledderman quickly got it back in the match at 17-14.
With all of the momentum shifting towards the Lady Crusaders’ side, Aryana Girvan came up with a key block on a kill attempt from Newton on the ensuing point to put an end to the run.
“We’re working on a lot of different blocking schemes and we have the athletes that are quick and have the ability to do that,” Campbell said.
After another kill from Newton brought the score to 18-15, Aryana Girvan responded with a kill of her own to send Best to the service line to finish off the set.
Best won six straight points behind an ace and a pair of kills, including the set-clinching kill that landed just inside the back line, while Constantino also came up with two kills during the closing run.
The third set was back-and-forth early, as the Lady Crusaders were able to take their first lead of the match and led 5-4 after Newton recorded a kill and then an ace.
Newton finished with a team-high 11 kills along with four service points for the Lady Crusaders as Campbell noted her team’s strong zone serving helped limit Newton’s play at the net.
“That was absolutely the game plan and I think that it worked,” Campbell said. “We were able to take to take her out of the offense and kind of limit the damage she does because we know she’s a great player.”
Aryana Girvan followed with a kill to send Best to the line as she helped give Clarion a lead it would hold until the final point.
Best won five straight points at the line with an ace as Payton Simko helped kick start the run with a block and Constantino finished it off with a kill to make it a 10-5 Lady Cats advantage.
After the service returned to the ECC side of the court for just one serve, Constantino came up with a six-point run behind a pair of aces as Clarion took a commanding 17-6 advantage.
From that point on the Lady Crusaders were never able to get within nine points, as Clarion led by as many as 13 points before finishing off the 25-13 set win and 3-0 match victory on a Aryana Girvan kill.
“Clarion is a great team, they have a dynasty of greatness for volleyball, so we knew coming in today it was going to be a tough game,” Elk County Catholic head coach Kelsey Morey said. “We played a little timid today and we probably could have put up a little more of a fight if we hadn’t, but they (Clarion) are a great team and they put us back on our heels.”
Both teams now move on to the PIAA tournament on Tuesday, as Clarion will take on the District 10 runner-up while Elk County Catholic will get the District 10 champion as sites and times for both matches have yet to be determined.