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Highlights from Palmyra girls volleyball's 3-2 loss to Berks Catholic in the District 3 Class 3A championship game Matt Catrillo/GameTimePA.com

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YORK – You could almost call it beginner’s luck for a team in its first district championship game – up 2-0, and at championship point.

Then, after a controversial call, things changed to a team struggling with the pressures of playing in its first championship game.

And it was something the Palmyra Cougars volleyball team simply couldn’t recover from, as they blew the 2-0 lead, falling 3-2 (25-20, 25-23, 24-26, 20-25, 8-15) to Berks Catholic Saturday in the District 3 Class 3A championship game at Central York High School.

With the Cougars up 24-21 in the third set, it looked as though the Cougars had converted a match point, which would’ve given Palmyra its first district championship.

And when the Cougars thought they had won, the bench stormed onto the floor – but the call to end the game never came, and instead went in favor of the Saints to extend the set – which they eventually won.

“It looked like it had hit the floor, but it is what it is. We had multiple opportunities to win game three, and we had multiple opportunities to win in the other games. The longer the game went, the worse it got,” said Palmyra coach Clark Sheaffer. “Berks Catholic’s been here. This is their third time in a row. This is our first. This is something they’re comfortable with. Sometimes you have to knock on the door before you walk through success.”

And once the third set was lost, Sheaffer knew there was trouble.

“It definitely hurt. They wanted three and done. When they lost that, the momentum shifted,” he said. “Berks Catholic started believing, and they started digging a lot of our hits. It was tough.”

After Palmyra had worked its way to an 11-8 lead in the fourth set, everything started unraveling, as the Saints would fight back to lead 20-15. And though the Cougars came back to within 21-20, Berks Catholic finished off the set with a 4-0 run.

It was much of the same in the fifth set, as another 4-0 run set up the Saints to complete the comeback, up 8-4, before closing on a 7-4 run.

And with a season full of obstacles amidst a successful season for the Cougars, the next one is finding somehow, someway, to get over this sick-to-your-stomach loss.

“It’s nice to allow the girls to have Sunday off. They’ll be disappointed sure, hopefully they can recover. Monday we’ll discuss it, we’ll touch the ball and play a little bit,” Sheaffer said. “The problem now is we don’t know our next opponent is, and to prepare for them, we’re going to go in a little blind.”

And with a brutal outcome like this, it’s extremely difficult to pull out positives – but Sheaffer did, saying his growing team can take away lots of lessons.

“What’s great about sports is learning,” he said. “When they didn’t win that third set, it drained them, so we also have to realize that individually we have to be mentally tough and keep maintaining until it’s over.”

Palmyra is guaranteed at least one more game this season, with their first round PIAA Tournament game set for Tuesday against District 2 champion Nanticoke at a time and place to be announced.

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