COUDERSPORT – After a nervous start, Ridgway volleyball had an exhilarating finish to earn a trip to the District Final Four.
Ridgway won 3-1 (14-25, 25-23, 25-21, 25-23) over Coudersport in the District 9 Class A volleyball quarterfinals Thursday night at Coudersport High School to become one of the last four teams remaining in the district.
The Lady Elkers now will play Saturday in the Final Four at St. Marys Area High School in pool play. Port Allegany, Clarion and A-C Valley are the other three teams to join the Lady Elkers.
“It feels really good that they accomplished this,” Ridgway coach Janet Redmond said. “It was a tough game. I think their nerves got the best of them. Coudy’s a good team, they cover the court very, very well. We couldn’t find any holes. They move fast. Gleason is an excellent hitter. They have great serving too.”
It was an even start to the match as the teams alternated the first 10 points until Coudersport scored the next five. Two kills from Keirsten Counts and a kill from Kayla Gleason were a part of the 5-0 run. Ridgway would get within three at 13-10 but the set got out of hand with eight straight points off the serve of Megan Gee en route to a 25-14 win in the first set.
Redmond said the players were “most definitely” nervous in the first set.
“That’s not the best we’ve played,” Redmond said. “I think the tension got a little bit high. It’s a playoff game and we’re away. We had to drive an hour and a half. Saturday will be more familiar surroundings and we’ll play our best there.”
The Lady Elkers were able to come back in the second set. The teams alternated the first six points but Ridgway scored four straight points. Three of them were off of Coudersport errors and Ridgway senior Erica Thorwart added a kill to make the lead 7-3. Coudersport scored three straight points, two in a row from Gleason kills. Ridgway added two straight kills from Lady Elker senior Nicole Breier to take a 9-6 lead. At 13-10, Coudersport scored four of the next five points to square the set at 14 and prompt a Ridgway timeout.
The teams alternated the next two points, then Ridgway went on a 5-0 spurt as Breier had a pair of kills and Sarah McClain put the Lady Elkers ahead 20-15 with a kill, that led Coudersport to call a timeout.
The Lady Falcons would rally and at 22-18, Coudersport would get a kill from Gleason, a kill from Gee and two aces from server Kelsey Miller to tie the set at 22-all and force Ridgway’s second timeout of the set.
Coudersport then served the ball out and called timeout trailing by one. With Mandie Leithner serving, Breier put down a kill to put Ridgway up 24-22. After a Gleason kill, Breier put an exclamation point on the set with a kill to tie the match at one with a 25-23 victory.
“We had to get our passing back,” Redmond said. “The first game, we didn’t pass well. Our tension was up and we weren’t relaxed out there. Once we can get our passes up and have an offense, then we’re OK. Covering the court, because I think they were so tense, they were standing still and not able to move with the ball when the ball’s coming over. All in all, they did a great job. They got the win and I’m proud of them. It’s on to Saturday.”
Thorwart had three straight service points to open the third set before Coudersport answered with three of its own as Counts was serving. Coudersport extended the lead all the way to 12-6 in the middle of the set but Ridgway scored six of the next seven points to get back into the set at 13-12. After Coudersport added a point, Katie Oknefski put down a kill and Thorwart added an ace. Coudersport hit the ball out to prompt a Lady Falcons timeout. Ridgway extended the lead to 18-15 but Coudersport tied the set back up at 18-all. A 6-1 run turned out to be crucial as Ridgway took the set 25-21. At 18-18, an Oknefski tip and two Breier kills opened the lead to three. After a Coudersport point, Maria Buhler served three straight points. Breier had two kills and Thorwart had one to make the lead 24-19.
The teams split the first eight points in the fourth set before Ridgway scored five of the next six points to take a 9-5 advantage. The momentum quickly switched to Coudersport’s end as the Lady Falcons went on a 10-1 surge to take a 15-10 lead. The Lady Falcons scored nine in a row off Gleason’s serve at 10-6.
Coudersport still held on to a 20-16 lead after another Gleason kill but Ridgway was eventually able to tie it at 21-all. At 21-19, Breier added a pair of kills and then had a key block to put Ridgway ahead 22-21. A net error on the Lady Falcons put Ridgway up 23-21 and a Thorwart tip put the Lady Elkers one point from victory. Coudersport would score a pair of points but a kill from Breier landed just inside the back line to seal the victory. Redmond said when the team began to relax, they began to play better.
“You got to relax, settle down, get a good pass up, get a good set and have a kill,” Redmond said. “That’s the three basic steps. Once they weren’t worrying about the ceilings, because we’re not used to these low ceilings, don’t worry about the ceilings, don’t worry about the other side of the court. Take care of what you need to take care of on your side of the court.”
Saturday’s Final Four matches will only be best-of-three matches with each game played to 25 points. The top two teams that emerge from pool play will move on to the PIAA playoffs which begin next Tuesday. The schedule for Saturday at St. Marys Area High School is as follows:
nClarion vs. A-C Valley, 9:15 a.m.
nPort Allegany vs. Ridgway, 10:30 a.m.
nClarion vs. Ridgway, 11:30 a.m.
nPort Allegany vs. A-C Valley, 12:30 p.m.
nA-C Valley vs. Ridgway, 1:30 p.m.
nPort Allegany vs. Clarion, 2:30 p.m.