The Penn Cambria volleyball team used its assets to win the District 6 Class AA championship on Saturday at Altoona High School.
The Panthers downed Philipsburg-Osceola 25-12, 16-25, 28-26 25-18 to win the crown, their second in three seasons.
“It means so much to us to win this championship,” said senior Taylor Freeman, who finished with 19 kills and 16 digs. “This whole season being undefeated and winning the LHAC then coming in and winning districts. There are no words to describe how proud I am of this team. The seniors have been together since seventh grade so it’s been a long road for all of us.”
Penn Cambria coach Leah Montgomery said her squad plays as a unit.
“I’ve always said that this is such a good team,” Montgomery said. “They play together, they get along. There’s no drama. Even when they are not playing well they still pull together as a team and they usually get it done. This makes us 21-0 so they just pull together as a team. I’m really proud of them.”
Height and athleticism also helped the Panthers out against the Mounties (25-6).
“One of the biggest assets of our game is our hitting and we knew coming into this that we had to use our height to our advantage on the court, and I think we did a pretty good job of that,” Freeman said.
Penn Cambria never trailed in Game 1 and cruised to the win. But the Mounties turned the tables in the second game, leading by as many as six points, 12-6, before the Panthers battled back to tie it at 14. But after another tie at 15, Philipsburg ended the game with a 10-1 run to even the match at 1.
In the third game, the Mounties led by 10, 20-10, before the Panthers begin to claw their way back, tying it the first time at 20. After that there were five more ties and five lead changes with junior Tori Shingler sealing the win with a kill.
“We expected a tough match,” Mounties coach Dave Eckberg said. “I was a little disappointed with our nerves. We tried to not be nervous, but we were in the first game and it showed.
“Give credit to our girls. We really came back well in games two and three. But we had some uncharacteristic mental lapses in those games that kind of let them back in. We really had momentum midway through Game 3 and we kind of left them off the hook and it was tough to come back from that. We had them on the ropes and that really took the wind out of our sails when we lost that one.”
The Panthers left Philipsburg in the dust in the fourth game, rolling to a 7-0 start and never letting up. Philipsburg got to within one, 10-9, but could get no closer.
Shingler finished with 17 kills, Kelly Yusko had 31 assists and Karissa Buzzella contributed 15 service points.
Penn Cambria advances to the PIAA Tournament on Tuesday at Central Cambria.
“We are really going to have to get rid of our unforced errors, because unforced errors kill us,” Montgomery said. “We have to be on when we head into states.”