Corey J. Corbin
New Castle News
NEW CASTLE —
The Neshannock volleyball team was feeling the love last night.
The Lady Lancers received a standing ovation from their friends and family as they walked off the floor following a 25-9, 25-8, 25-20 loss to Cochranton in the opening round of the PIAA Class A volleyball playoffs at Meadville High.
“Those fans are proud of them and so am I,” Neshannock coach Andrew Frank said. “We just played a very good Cochranton team. I wanted to put the girls in front of their fans and let them see the appreciation the school, the district and the fans had for them by making it this far.
“I have a young group that are still learning and this is part of the learning process. As they learn, they will get better. If the program continues to move in the direction it’s moving right now, we’ll be able to show our faces in the playoffs again. I’m confident the girls will work hard to achieve that. This run has been very good for the program and has opened some eyes. If they work hard, we can compete in the section and in the playoffs.”
The Lady Cardinals (17-0), who are ranked sixth in the latest Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association rankings, advanced to the PIAA quarterfinals against defending state champion Clarion at a site and time to be determined.
“Coming out of the WPIAL and into District 10, you know it’s going to be a battle and it was,” Frank said. “Cochranton will probably move on. That game will be interesting no matter who they play. I have a lot of respect for any team that gets to this level. They certainly command respect. I commend their coaches and players, because they played well. They are something my girls can aspire to.”
The first two games were eerily similar with Cochranton jumping out to large leads. The Lady Cardinals held commanding 7-1 and 17-4 advantages in the first and second games, respectively.
“The first and second games were just nerves,” Frank said. “Had we played the way we had been playing (in the WPIAL playoffs), I think we would’ve given them a little better challenge. Nerves definitely played a part.”
Neshannock (14-5) had difficulties stringing together any semblance of an offense. The Lady Lancers managed just three service points in the first two games before recording seven in the third game.
“We didn’t run much offense,” Frank said. “We didn’t pass and the fact that we couldn’t pass hurt us. In the other games in the WPIAL playoffs, we passed well, so we had a good offense. When we’re on our game offensively, we can beat anybody. We just had very little offense tonight.”
Neshannock performed much better in the third game and held its only lead of the evening at 1-0 on Taylor Frank’s serve.
The Lady Lancers stayed within striking distance trailing by no more than six before rallying to pull within 24-20 with Cassidy Burrelli, Madison Altmyer, Courtney Proctor and Tayler Grybowski each slamming home a couple kills.
“The third game, we definitely put up a fight and didn’t give up,” said Andrew Frank, who is Taylor’s dad. “The one thing the girls learned this year to carry on into next year is you have to have good composure no matter what venue you’re in. I really thought through the WPIALs that they did that. We held our composure tonight. They showed class and didn’t fall apart.”
The Lady Lancers will say good-bye to seniors Altmyer, Proctor and Anna Muraca.
“For the seniors, their families got to see them come this far through the program,” Frank said. “They should be very proud of themselves. They’ll be able to say they played in the state tournament in volleyball.”
The future appears bright for the Lady Lancers with four starters and three reserves that played last night returning next year.
“I’m proud of the girls for getting somewhere they’ve never been to before,” Andrew Frank said. “They played an extra three or four games that they hadn’t played in the school’s history. I’m proud they were able to make it to this point and compete.
“When we beat the No. 5 seed then we beat the No. 4 seed, it built confidence within them that they didn’t have at the beginning of the year. If you would have asked me at the beginning of the year if we would have qualified for state, I would have said it wasn’t likely, but they proved themselves. They have nothing to hang their heads about.”