CATASAUQUA – It was a bad day for Schuylkill League teams in the pool play portion of the District 11 Class AA volleyball playoffs on Saturday.
All four teams from the league – including TIMES NEWS area representatives Tamaqua and Panther Valley – were eliminated as the eight-team field was cut in half.
Colonial League members Saucon Valley, Southern Lehigh and Notre Dame of Green Pond joined Lehigh Valley Conference representative Bethlehem Catholic in advancing to Tuesday's semifinal round.
Tamaqua competed in Pool A and had a 1-2 match record, defeating Pine Grove in its opener, but then losing to Notre Dame and Saucon Valley.
Panther Valley went 0-3 in Pool B, dropping matches to Southern Lehigh, Bethlehem Catholic and Blue Mountain.
Raiders come close
After posting a 29-27, 25-21, 20-25 victory over Pine Grove to start the day, and knowing that top-seeded Saucon Valley loomed in its final match of pool play, Tamaqua was aware that its best chance for advancement hinged on beating Notre Dame.
The Raiders hung close to ND in all three games (matches were a mandatory three games not best-of-three), but the Crusaders survived, 28-26, 25-22, 25-20.
"After beating Pine Grove, we knew that it was probably going to come down to that [Notre Dame] match," said Tamaqua coach Stacy Setlock. "It was a back-and-forth battle in all three games, but Notre Dame proved to be just a little bit better.
"I thought we played pretty well, but they had a couple of strong hitters that gave us trouble. That was probably the difference."
In their final match against Saucon Valley, the Raiders were officially eliminated as they dropped three games.
"I'm disappointed we didn't advance, but I'm not disappointed with how we played and how our girls battled," said Setlock. "The competition was very tough.
"We have only eight girls on our varsity roster and a couple of them were feeling under the weather today, but we held our own."
Setlock praised the play of setter Paige Baddick (53 assists) 18 service points, nine kills, six aces); Sarah Paluck (21 kills, 16 service points); and Stacey Wallace (20 kills, eight blocks, 10 service points, four aces).
"At the beginning of the seasons our goals were to make Districts and to have a better record than last year," said Setlock. "We accomplished both of those things.
"Last year we had a .500 record and this year we went 14-3 during the regular season. The girls worked extremely hard and had an awesome season. I'm proud of how we played and how we competed."
Panther Valley knew it had a tall order ahead of it. The Panthers entered the tournament as the No. 10 seed and then beat Lehighton in a pigtail round game on Thursday to earn its way into Saturday's pool play round.
The Panthers were swept in all three Pool B matches.
"We ran into some very good competition," said Panther Valley coach Nancy Filer. "In our first two matches (Southern Lehigh and Bethlehem Catholic) we went up against the top two teams that we faced all season.
"I thought our girls played well and I was happy with how we battled. But the pace was a little faster than we were used to seeing and both Southern Lehigh and Bethlehem were very strong at the net."
Amy Yusella was excellent throughout the day, leading the Panthers in kills (17), blocks (12) and digs (24). Also playing well were Deanna Focht (10 kills, eight blocks) and Stephanie Kachelries (17 digs, 16 service points, five kills, four aces)
"It was a nice season," said Filer. "We started slow, but eventually got to where we wanted to be.
"We might not have been successful today, but the future looks bright. The underclassmen saw lots of playing time today and throughout the season."