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One of the biggest girls volleyball headlines this season has been the unbeaten McConnellsburg team, which has had its way with teams around the Sideling Hill League and Inter-County Conference.
It wasn't until Friday that the Spartans were truly challenged. And that challenge came from Haley Bricker and the red-hot Shalom Christian team.
In a five-set battle, the Flames spoiled McConnellsburg's perfect season in Shalom's last regular season match - led by Bricker, who had 21 kills, seven blocks, six digs and four aces.
Bricker is the P.O. Female Athlete of the Week.
"We knew going into the game that they were excited to be undefeated, but with it being our last game of the regular season, we wanted to go out with a win," Shalom coach Katie Gantz said. "It was a totally different vibe going into that gym - the whole place was packed with McConnellsburg fans, and it was a bit intimidating, but the girls came out super strong from the start."
Bricker led the charge into five sets, to pull out a "perfectly timed" win just before the team dives in to Mason-Dixon Christian Conference tournament play.
"It was crazy," Bricker said. "Our team really pulled together and we showed up to win. The Spartan girls are an amazing team and they fought really hard until the very end. We really had to pull together and really work as a team and we just tried to clean up a lot of our errors and stay enthusiastic."
The win over McConnellsburg should prove to be a big motivator for the team, which begins the MDCC tournament Tuesday against Calvary in the quarterfinals. To serve as extra incentive, the Flames will also host the tournament championship on Saturday, giving Shalom one more opportunity for a match on their home court.
"Getting that win was nice; going into the (MDCC tournament) off a loss would have been a downer, so coming off a great win will keep the girls motivated into Tuesday night," Gantz said. "Haley is a tremendous motivator for us and when she gets going you can see it on her face. When she gets super amped, she keeps the girls going."
"As a senior I hope we get to the championship match and I know we can do everything to get there," Bricker said. "I could never do what I do without our setter, Kylie (Eby). She gives me great sets and when we get in our groove and doing our thing it's great."
Haley Bricker, Shalom Christian
Sport: Girls volleyball
Position: Middle hitter
Parents: Jill and Galen Bricker
Other interests: Bricker also enjoys singing.
Favorite team: Penn State women's volleyball
Athlete most admired: Haleigh Washington, middle blocker for Penn State
Interesting fact: Bricker accidentally wore her shorts backward before a big match, and now sometimes wears them backward for luck.
Statistics: Bricker led the Shalom offense with 21 kills, seven blocks, six digs and four aces as the Flames handed McConnellsburg its first loss of the season in a five-set non-league battle ... Bricker also had 13 kills, five digs, four aces and a block against Carroll Christian on Monday.