Lady Chucks dominant in 8th-grade ECC Tourney

ST. MARYS — March 10, the Punxsy eighth-grade girls' volleyball team traveled to Elk County for the ECC Tournament, and the Lady Chucks finished with an impressive 9-1 record on the day.

"This was a great day of volleyball for the eighth-grade girls," Punxsy coach Megan Decker said. "They finished the day with an impressive record, and they really pulled together and worked on their individual weaknesses, as well as the teams'."

The tournament's format saw each team playing five others in two-game sets.

Punxsy opened the tournament against Sheffield and earned a pair of runaway victories, 25-9 and 25-13.

Punxsy's serving, which has been a strong point all season, was again dominant, as the Lady Chucks wracked up 11 aces in the first game alone to lead them to the 25-9 win.

Emma White, Claire Smith, Ivy Ferko and Shaylee Kennedy all contributed, with Smith and Kennedy earning three and five aces, respectively.

"It was definitely our serves that won that game for us," Decker said.

Punxsy got out to a bit of a slow start in the second game, but Mallory Cameron pulled out a seven-point serving streak, including a pair of aces to make it a contest again.

Decker also pointed out the hustle play of some of her players as a contributing factor to the second-set win.

"Lexie Smathers and Korinne Young really hustled to get to the ball and made some very nice plays for us," she said.

In the second match, against Johnsonburg, Punxsy picked up a quick pair of kills from hitters Hope Bridge and Meredith Gallina and never looked back from there, cruising to a 25-16 victory.

"We passed the ball very well," Decker said. "I was pleased with how well the girls played. They played the right way."

Bridge added three more kills, while Ferko added seven service points, including two aces, in the win.

Punxsy suffered its only loss of the entire tournament in its second game against Johnsonburg, though, falling 19-25.

"In Game No. 2, we definitely lacked communication and movement," Decker said. "We missed too many serves and gave the game away."

Decker noted that MiKeelee Brink had an impressive kill and three aces, while Taylor Cary added three aces of her own.

In the third set, Punxsy took on St. Marys and returned to its winning form, earning a two-game sweep, 25-11, 25-16.

"Again, we played very well," Decker said of the team's performance in the first game of the St. Marys' set. "The girls communicated very well and pulled out a nice team win."

Gallina, Kennedy and Emma White each had great serving points, Decker said, and Kennedy's passing impressed her, as well.

Decker said the second St. Marys game was "all about the aces," as the Lady Chucks had an unheard of 13 in the 25-16 victory.

Cameron had seven of her own to lead the way, and Korinne Young chipped in with three.

Brink had a pair, and Lexie Smathers wrapped them up with one.

Punxsy kept rolling in its fourth set, against DuBois Central Catholic, with a pair of victories.

Punxsy won 25-11 in the first game behind 10 aces and 15 service points between Bridge and Gallina.

"We started out a bit slow," Decker said. "But we gained momentum and went on to capture the win."

In the second game, Punxsy's Morgan Dover-spike started the game off with a kill, and from there, Young and Cary led the Lady Chucks to victory with what Decker called "great serving runs."

The Lady Chucks wrapped up the tournament with a two-game sweep over the Lady Rovers of Brockway, including a close 25-23 win in the final game of the day.

Lexie Smathers led Punxsy's servers in the first game with seven service points, including two aces.

Bridge also had two kills to boost the Lady Chucks' momentum.

Punxsy earned the close victory in the second game despite some factors against them, Decker said.

"We had to work a little harder for our last win," she said. "Hot and tired, our girls pushed through and fought to the end."

Overall, Decker was very pleased with the performance of her young squad.

"With great serves from so many of our girls, great passes from players like Taylor Medsger and Laurel Szymanski, great sets all around and great net play, we worked together and finished strong."