The Lehighton volleyball team would like nothing better than to repeat as Mountain Valley Conference champions.
At the same time, the Pleasant Valley Lady Bears are on a mission to reclaim the Mountain Valley Conference Championship.
Last night in Broadheadsville, both teams took one step closer to their goal with semifinal round victories to set up a rematch with each other Thursday night at Pocono Mountain West High School for the MVC Title.
In the first game of the night, second-seeded Lehighton knocked off third-seeded Stroudsburg in three games (25-16, 25-20, 25-15,) while in the nightcap, the top-seeded Bears swept fourth-seeded Pocono Mountain East by scores of 25-15, 25-19, 28-26.
Lehighton's Sheena White broke open a 6-6 deadlock in the first game of the match by serving off 11 straight points (including four aces) to give the Indians a commanding 18-6 advantage. Senior middle hitter Molly Harleman accounted for five of her team's 12 kills in the game as Lehighton gained the early momentum by rolling to a nine-point victory.
The Indians faced some adversity in the second game, as the Mounties jumped out to an 13-9 lead. However, after a timeout by head coach Rachel Quinn, Lehighton responded by going on an 8-0 run, aided by seven consecutive service points by Jess Lobien, to take a 17-13 lead. Stroudsburg cut the deficit to 20-18, but couldn't get any closer as the Indians took game two, 25-20.
“We started that second game a little flat", added Quinn. “We're a very high energy team, but we fell behind because we lost our mental focus and we weren't communicating with each other on the court. I think the timeout helped us regain our composure and we went back out and pushed ahead with a strong run."
Lehighton closed out the third game with strong service runs by the Lobien sisters. Jess put the Indians ahead 5-1 with a four-point run, while Deb served six in a row to help build the lead to 13-4.
Stroudsburg proved to be its own worst enemy with 23 hitting errors, including nine each in the second and third games.
“Having a chance to defend our MVC championship was a team goal from the beginning of the season," stated Quinn. “We took care of things tonight, and now we have to get ready for Pleasant Valley on Thursday."
The Indians and Bears split with each other in the regular season series.
Molly Harleman had nine kills and nine digs to lead Lehighton, while Sheena White and Jess Lobien added five kills apiece. Madeline Zurn and Deb Lobien dished off 13 and 11 assists respectively and libero Amanda Windbeck tallied 46 digs.
-Pocono Mountain East
After a two year hiatus, the Bears are back in the MVC Championship game (after claiming five straight championships from 2002-2006).
“It's been a long time coming, but we're finally back to where we want to be," stated Pleasant Valley head coach John Gesiskie. “We struggled a little bit at the beginning of the season with some maturity issues, but the girls have really started coming together by believing in themselves and believing in their teammates and I think that's been a big factor down the stretch."
Pleasant Valley cruised to a 25-15 victory in game one by dominating the net. The Bears had eight kills as a team (six from Kayla Dorney), as opposed to two kills from the Cardinals.
In the second game, Andrea Giardina rallied the Bears from a 14-11 deficit with an eight-point service run to give her team a 20-14 lead. Giardina was a perfect 21-for-21 (15 points, three aces) from behind the service line on the night.
The Bears seemed to be in total command in the third game of the match, as they held a 22-16 lead. However, Pocono Mountain East (who played for the conference championship in each of the past two years) would not go away quietly. With the Bears serving for game point (24-22), three consecutive Cardinals kills propelled East to a 25-24 lead. After trading points, Pocono Mountain East appeared to win the match on a kill; however, the point was negated as the Cardinals middle hitter attacked the ball over the plane of the net. With the score now tied at 26, Giardina fired off two consecutive aces for the 28-26 victory.
League MVP Kayla Dorney was a huge factor all night with 17 kills for the Bears, eight of which came in the third game.
''Kayla is the League MVP for a reason and she showed that tonight,'' added Gesiskie. ''She's very versatile and she's a great all-around player. She can hit the ball from anywhere on the court and her play really helps energize the entire team.''
Hitting errors were a problem for both teams as the Cardinals had 22 and Pleasant Valley tallied 26 (13 in the third game alone).
“Our setting was a little sporadic tonight and that really affected the timing of the hitters," noted Gesiskie. “We definitely gave away too many points tonight and that's something we need to correct if we want to beat Lehighton."
Aside from Dorney, Crystal Cambria had six kills while Priya Patel dished off 17 assists.