ST. MARYS — The DuBois volleyball team entered Saturday’s District 9 Class 3A championship game looking to put the pressure on Bradford early and often, and that’s just what the Lady Beavers did in sweeping their way to a second straight district crown.
An 11-point service run by Lady Beaver Kaylee Sadowski in the opening set gave DuBois all the momentum with a commanding 18-4 lead. It was all Lady Beavers from there as they went on to win the opening set 25-8 before taking sets two and three by scores of 25-9 and 24-14, respectively, to complete the sweep.
The victory was DuBois’ third this season against the Lady Owls. The Lady Beavers swept Bradford at home (25-15, 25-16, 25-17) Sept. 18, then won in four sets at Bradford (25-21, 25-12, 21-25, 25-8).
Things weren’t even close this time around as DuBois’ aggressive serving — coupled with a strong serve receive led by senior libero Abby Lecker and a solid net attack — put Bradford on its heels all match long. The Lady Owls struggled to find any rhythm as they were called for a host of net violations to go along other miscues in the loss.
Bradford scored just three of its 31 points off its own serve — one in each set.
Conversely, DuBois racked up 48 points on its serve, led by the junior duo of Sadowski (15) and Cate Gregory (11). Seniors Kelli Hoffer and Lexi Smith added eight and five points, respectively. Hoffer (3) and Smith (2) combined for five of the team’s seven aces.
Hoffer also finished with a match-high nine kills, while junior Sydney Kaschalk posted six kills. Smith chipped in four kills, while Taylor Smith had two kills and two blocks.
“Going into it, our goal was to defend the line because they’re an outside hitting team, and just serve them tough. And, we did that today,” said DuBois coach Jason Gustafson. “That’s what helped us the last two times we played them.
“My concern was the first set and going into a big game like this that there is nerves. I don’t how good the team is, you’re always going to have some nerves. So, our focus was getting out on the court for the first game and already settled in as much as possible and just play. And, I thought we minimized the unforced errors in game one.
“I’m really proud of the girls. We had a great season last year with a great group, so there was a lot of pressure on this group to follow that up. We basically had a new bunch (of starters) out there, and I thought they showed up today and played really well.”
The match opened with the teams trading sideouts for the most park. Single points by Gregory and Lexi Smith helped give DuBois a 7-4 advantage before Sadowski ripped off her 11-point run. The spurt featured an ace, a tip by Taylor Smith, a block by Gregory and several net violations on the Lady Owls.
DuBois pushed the lead to 21-6 on its next serve on two points from Taylor Smith on a Hoffer kill and block by Kaschalk. Gregory added a point before DuBois won the set on Hoffer’s serve.
The Lady Beavers carried that momentum into set No. 2, jumping out to a quick 9-2 lead behind two points by Hoffer and four from Kaschalk, who also had two kills during that opening stretch.
Lexi Smith pushed the lead to 12-3 with a pair of points before Sadowski all put the set away with a three-point spurt to make 16-4. Bradford was called for two double contacts and a net violation with Sadowski at the line.
Gregory scored back-to-back points late in the set before a three-points spurt by Hoffer, two on aces, gave DuBois game point at 24-9. The Lady Beavers won the set on the esuing point when Cayla Donahue blasted a kill off a Bradford blocker for a sideout and 25-9 win.
The third set had an odd start to say the least.
Bradford scored the first two points of the set on Erica Marshall’s serve before action was stopped. It was determined that the Lady Owls’ weren’t in the service rotation submitted prior to the set, and thus lost both points while DuBois was awarded a point for the violation.
Gregory then added two quick points to put DuBois up 3-0 in what was a five-point swing to open the set.
A long series of sideouts ensued with DuBois maintaining a two of three-point edge past the midway point of the set. Two points each by Hoffer and Lexi Smith helped push the DuBois lead to 17-10 before a four-point spurt by Gregory put the Lady Beavers on the brink of the district crown at 24-13.
Bradford fought off one of those match points with a sideout, but Kaschalk then gave DuBois the title with a kill for a sideout and a 25-14 victory in the third.
“Kelli (Hoffer) played well coming off the ankle injury, and Sydney and all the other kids played solid,” said Gustafson. “I thought the sparkplug in the first game was Abby Lecker in the back row. She handled every ball that game to her as well as you could ask her to, and at the end of the day, that is what settled everything down.
“You;re able to run your offense and it’s not herky-jerky. I thought she really helped get us started for sure. The other player I’d point to more than anybody today was the bench. We’re typically a quiet group and a hard group to get energy out of, but the girls on the bench were in it from start to finish and that was huge.”
DuBois opens the state playoffs Tuesday against the loser of the WPIAL finals pitting Thomas Jefferson against Knoch. That state match will be played at a District 9 site to be determined.