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Palmyra volleyball takes state opener

PITTSTON – When the Palmyra girls' volleyball team thought it had won the District 3 Class 3A title against Berks Catholic in a sweep – only to have call go against them and lose the championship match in five games – the Cougars suffered a tough loss.

Not a season-ender though. That possibility would loom over them once the state tournament began.

Palmyra needed to get its groove back in time for Tuesday's opening round of the PIAA tourney to keep its season going. After the opening minutes of the first game were evenly played, the Cougars returned to form in a 25-11, 25-13, 25-15 victory over Nanticoke.

“We were hoping for them to get their swagger back,” Palmyra head coach Clark Sheaffer said. “We kind of felt defeated, losing to Berks Catholic. We had a good practice yesterday but we needed this match.”

The Cougars (17-4) will play West York in the quarterfinals on Saturday at a time and place to be announced.

Palmyra defeated West York in the District 3 semifinals.

Nanticoke (16-5), the District 2 champion, led early in the first game 4-1, and later the game was tied 8-8. But after that, the Trojans rarely had any sustained success.

The Cougars took control of the opening game and match when Rachel Hutchinson went on a tear with 11 straight points served. She had two aces in that stretch, while Melanie Sheaffer had four kills and a block.

That surge put Palmyra up 20-8 in the first game, on the way to a 25-11 win.

Hutchinson served to open the second set and immediately put the Cougars in control again, starting the set with an ace. Palmyra took a quick 6-0 lead, on the way to a 17-4 advantage. Nanticoke got to within 19-11 to make it mildly tense for the Cougars, but a couple good serves by LeeAnn Baker helped to re-establish a large lead and momentum.

The second game ended on a long serve by Nanticoke, giving Palmyra a 25-13 win.

The Trojans did not help their own cause with some unforced errors. After the service error to end the second game, they had a serve into the net to start the third game. Nanticoke also had several carries on attempted sets throughout the match.

Late in the third game, some reserves helped contributed to the final points. Freshman Taylor McInerney had a kill to put the Cougars up 17-10. Sophomore Chandler Weber served a couple points late to get Palmyra within match point, which the Cougars eventually scored on defense.

“[The lead] allowed me to put other player in later in the game,” Sheaffer said.

Sheaffer led Palmyra with nine kills. Baker and Maggie Black had five each. Baker and Hutchinson had three aces each. Hutchinson added four digs. Kirstin West had 26 assists, and Natasha Bucy had two blocks.