This regular season, the McConnellsburg girls volleyball team seemed to be unstoppable, with a near perfect record while storming through Sideling Hill League and Inter-County Conference play.
But Tuesday, the Lady Spartans met their match.
There aren't many teams that can put a win over McConnellsburg on its resume this season, but the Meyersdale Red Raiders found the key to success over the top-ranked Spartans - a fast start.
Meyersdale claimed a 3-0 victory in a District 5 Class 1A semifinal over McConnellsburg (18-3), and will move on to play Berlin in the district championship match Thursday.
Meyersdale (15-6) came out swinging in the first set, taking a 5-2 edge early, and held off McConnellsburg for a 25-19 win in the first game.
"They brought more offensive pressure than we bought," Spartans coach Heidi Johnston said. "We didn't block well enough and we didn't turn enough strong offense to keep them on their heels like we were."
The Raiders continued to pull away from there, taking the second set 25-15 as the obviously frustrated Spartans frantically searched for some fire.
"We were adjusting our defense well to what their hitters were doing," Meyersdale coach Christa Wiltrout said. "We haven't come together and worked as a team much this season but we did today and that's what we've been waiting for all season."
The Spartans found a spark in the third set by way of senior Lindsey Randler, who was heard on the court shouting, "Play for each other," after nearly every play. McConnellsburg looked like its old self in the third set, with big plays by Kacey Hann, Bridgette Ritchey and Katelyn Truax to keep the game tied late after Meyersdale continued to rebound on Spartan attack errors.
"We were trying to get more energy because we play better when we have more energy," Randler said. "They made us work harder to want to push them back out. You have to work twice as hard when you lose the first set."
"Offensively we were able to put some things together and find the open areas on the court that we were talking about," Johnston said. "We started finding them and kept a little bit more pressure on them. But in the end, we talked about details and I would have liked to have a couple of those points at the end back."
Ritchey had a nice kill on the outside that dropped just in front of Meyersdale libero Leah Sines to make the score 23-23.
Then, Hann tipped the ball into the middle, and it dropped inside a circle of Raider defenders for a score of 24-all.
Finally, Truax smacked down a kill in the back right corner of the court to even the set 25-25.
But despite McConnellsburg's resiliency, a possible kill that landed just beyond the end line sealed it for the Raiders.
"We worked all year to try and play at this level because we don't play at this level a lot throughout the season in our league," Johnston said. "You try and play up for that, but when you don't have to do it throughout the year, it is hard to turn it on at the end of the season, and (Meyersdale) played good all around ball."
Notes: Ritchey led the Spartan offense with nine kills, followed by Truax with seven ... Truax also had four blocks, nine digs and two aces ... Randler had 23 assists ... Meyersdale's Layne Deakins surpassed 1,000 career assists during the second set.