Punxsy Volleyball fulfills dream with D-IX gold

ST. MARYS — Every team dreams and sets goals for its seasons. The Lady Chucks volleyball team was able to fulfill its dream of District IX gold in dramatic fashion Thursday night at St. Marys High School.

Trailing by a game, Punxsy came together to take game four and outlasted Bradford, 18-16, in the match-deciding set to capture the program's seventh title in eight years.

"Everyone on this team contributed to this win tonight. It feels like a dream to bring the District Championship plaque back to Punxsutawney," exclaimed the winning head coach Heather Good.

The Lady Owls started the night off by taking the opening contest, 25-17. The Lady Chucks responded to even the best-of-five with a 25-20 win in the second game.

Bradford regained the momentum over the third game, 25-19.

With its back against the wall, Punxsy forced the tie-breaking game with a 25-21 win in game four.

The evenly matched clubs could not have played a better fifth set. The 15-point game continued until Punxsy pulled out the 18-16, two-point margin and victory.

"This was an awesome win for the team tonight. These girls have worked so hard all season long to get to this point," explained Good. "During the first few weeks of practice, we sat down as a team and wrote a goal: 'While we hold on to the rope for our fellow teammates, we will become one as we work hard, communicate, hustle, have fun and play with passion to make it to and win districts. We will bond together to form a family.' I don't think there is any questions in anyone's mind as to whether or not we achieved those goals."

Punxsy (15-5) avenged its one-set district championship loss, 13-25, to the same Bradford team last year.

The Lady Chucks give Good her first head coaching title in her inaugural season at the helm. Punxsy also retakes the title it enjoyed holding for six seasons in a row (2005-10) under former coach and mother of the current coach, Lisa Good.

Punxsy headed into the title tilt confident after its three- set dominating victory Thursday against Clearfield. The Lady Chucks also were able get the victory after being swept by the Lady Owls earlier in the season.

"Even with the earlier season loss to this team, the girls never lost confidence in each other. They truly believed in their abilities and the ability to bring each other up. This team is constantly encouraging each other and constantly helping each other, a characteristic of the team that has greatly contributed to our success on the court," said Good. "Bradford is an excellent team. They have very strong hitters and quick defense. I give credit to head coach Mike Leet for how far he has brought that team in the past few years."

The Lady Chucks will have Friday to enjoy their title before heading back to St. Marys on Saturday. Punxsy will now play in the PIAA subregional and face the winner of District VIII at 1 p.m. District runner-up Bradford will play the District V champion in the other match.

"We have one night to get in the gym before the subregional Saturday," pointed out Good. "With the progress these girls have made, we are confident that they will continue to have a positive impact on each other on the court."

Taylor Newcome led the Punxsy hitters with 18 kills along with nine digs and a block.

Sydney Weaver added an all-around solid game of 15 kills, five aces, five blocks and 18 digs.

Setters Ashley Reitz and Shaina Painter combined for 30 assists. Reitz had 17 of the assists while lining four aces and digging 11 attacks. Painter had 13 assists with three digs and a block.

"Ashley and Shaina were great with the ball tonight. Their hands were smooth and they made awesome decisions about where to put the ball for our hitters," said the Punxsy coach. "As for the hitters, Taylor and Sydney truly dominated at the middle position, taking whatever Bradford did and playing very effectively against them.

"They essentially did what they wanted with the ball. None of that would have happened without the passes. Our defensive players were dead on tonight, really digging up some crazy balls."

Libero Chelsea Engeholm produced 12 digs and laced an ace. Emily Reitz added 10 digs and an ace of her own, while Sydney Phillips had eight digs.

Shayla Brink chipped in five kills and four digs. Emilee States contributed four kills and eights digs with a block and one assist.

Bella Gallina rounded out the effort with two kills, four digs, an assist and one block for the night.