ORWIGSBURG – Slow starts have plagued the Blue Mountain girls volleyball team all season long, so why should the playoffs be any different?
Last night in the District 11 Class AA quarterfinals against Panther Valley, the Lady Eagles shot themselves in the foot and dug themselves in a hole, yet somehow found a way to emerge with a 25-15, 25-23, 25-21 victory over the seventh-seeded Panthers. The win advances second-seeded Blue Mountain into Tuesday's semifinals against third-seeded Notre Dame of Green Pond (a 3-0 quarterfinal winner over Pine Grove).
Dating back to the 2011 District 11 quarterfinals when Panther Valley posted a 3-0 sweep of Blue Mountain, the Lady Eagles have now won their last nine games (and three consecutive matches) against the Panthers.
"For whatever reason, we're a team that likes to dig ourselves into a hole, but we're also a team that's very good at fighting back," stated Blue Mountain head coach Nick Marrongelle. "I've been trying to teach these girls to get a lead and stay on it. Tonight, just like so many times during the regular season, we started out slow. We probably played our 'C' game tonight and that's just unacceptable in the District playoffs."
Panther Valley started all three games will a lead, yet in all three games, the Panthers were unable to hang on.
In the first game, the Panthers benefitted from six Eagles service errors, but a four-point service run by Michelle O'Dell and a five-point service run by freshman Maya Throne (which included three consecutive aces) propelled Blue Mountain to a 23-13 lead.
The Panthers then started game two on a 4-0 run with their lead eventually swelling to 10-2. All momentum seemed to be in Panther Valley's favor, before Blue Mountain freshman Jordan Skoff decided to take matters into her own hands.
A Skoff kill trimmed the Eagles deficit to 15-10. Skoff then rattled off six straight service aces to give Blue Mountain a 16-15 lead. Panther Valley battled back to regain the lead at 21-20; however, four of Blue Mountain's last five points were scored off Panthers hitting errors.
"Stupid errors at inopportune times really hurt us tonight, especially in that second game," stated Panther Valley head coach Nancy Filer. "When we needed a big point, we either hit it into the net or hit it out of bounds. When you play a good team like Blue Mountain, you can't give them points and you certainly can't make mistakes on easy plays. Nerves might have played a factor, but really, we were our own worst enemy tonight."
In the third game, Blue Mountain staked itself to a 19-10 advantage, but the Panthers showed no quit. A five-point service run by sophomore Jamey Mikovich (which included two aces) and two consecutive kills by Richelle Van Horn brought Panther Valley back to within two points (23-21). However, similar to the second game, when then Panthers needed a point, a hitting error backfired their rally and a Alex Ferrier ace ended the match.
Jamey Mikovich led Panther Valley (10-5) with six kills, eight service points, three aces, seven digs and two blocks. Jessica Wiese (five kills, four blocks, six digs), Richelle Van Horn (five kills, six assists) and Kelsey Van Horn (eight assists) also played key roles for the Panthers.
For Blue Mountain (14-3), Brittney Moyer tallied seven kills, 11 digs and two blocks, while Lexi Hammer added 15 assists and eight digs.