Still rolling: Punxsy sweeps past Lady Dutch

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Both of Punxsy's middle school girls' volleyball teams continued what have proven to be successful seasons thus far, with sweeps over the Lady Dutch of St. Marys Thursday afternoon in Punxsutawney.

The afternoon began with a pair of seventh-grade wins, 25-18 and 25-10.

Punxsy head coach Jacque Curtis said after the match that she was very pleased with the way her girls performed.

"They're really coming together well," she said. "We played very well today, and we're showing signs of improvement."

Punxsy's Alli Ishman started the first game on the right foot with a three-point run, but St. Marys kept it close until, with the score 18-16 in Punxsy's favor, Alexis Vite took the service line.

Vite went on a three-point run to give Punxsy some breathing room, and after a quick sideout, Tessa Winebark finished the game off with three straight of her own to give the Lady Chucks a one-game advantage.

The second game was another close, back-and-forth contest until Punxsy's Sarah Mahlberg took control of the ball and went on a staggering 14-point run to push the score from 6-5 St. Marys to 19-6 Punxsy before she lost service.

Curtis praised Mahlberg's serving after the game.

Mahlberg's run included eight aces, giving her a team-high total for the day.

From that point on, the teams traded points, but the gap was far too great for the Lady Dutch to overcome, and Punxsy cruised to a 25-10 victory.

In addition to Mahlberg's service success, Vite, Morgan VanLeer and Hanna Ebel each had an ace.

The first game of the matchup between the eighth-grade squads started off with St. Marys opening up an 11-5 lead, but Punxsy kept its composure, came back and earned a three-game sweep over the Lady Dutch, 25-20, 25-12, 25-18.

"The girls battled back after being down in the first game, and I was really proud of the way they never gave up," Punxsy head coach Megan Decker said.

Down 11-5, Punxsy's Meredith Gallina stepped to the line, and by the time she was done serving, Punxsy was right back in the game with the score tied at 12.

The teams traded the lead for the remainder of the game, but Punxsy managed to pull ahead by two late.

Ahead 22-20, the Lady Chucks turned to Morgan Doverspike, and she ended the game with a three-point run that included a pair of aces to give Punxsy a come-from-behind 25-20 victory.

In the second game, Punxsy carried its momentum from the first, and hitter Hope Bridge heated up at the net.

The teams traded side outs for the first 14 points, and with the score knotted at seven, Punxsy's Ivy Ferko gave the Lady Chucks a bit of breathing room with three straight.

St. Marys narrowed the gap to 11-9, but Gallina did it again, picking up four points, including three aces to push the lead to six.

Two possessions later, Punxsy's Shaylee Kennedy went on a five-point run — one that included a pair of kills by Bridge and a pair of aces.

St. Marys regained service with the score 22-12, but after a quick side out, Punxsy's Lexie Smathers finished the deal with two points.

Bridge put the exclamation point on the game's final point with a cross court kill to finish off the Lady Dutch.

In the third and final game, Punxsy's dominance continued with a 25-18 victory highlighted by a nine-point tear by Emma White, which included four aces.

Aside from White's run, none surpassed two points throughout the game, as the teams exchanged points on several nice volleys.

Overall, Decker said after the game she was "very pleased" with the way her girls played and with the continued improvement they have shown.

Punxsy's serving was certainly a strong point, as the Lady Chucks amassed 19 aces over the three-game stretch.

Gallina led the serving game with five aces, and White followed closely with four. Kennedy added three aces, while Ferko and Doverspike each chipped in with two.

Taylor Cary, Claire Smith and MiKeelee Brink rounded out the aces with one each.

Bridge led the Lady Chucks in the kills column, and Brink added one kill, as well.

Punxsy will be back in action bright and early Saturday at the Elk County Tournament.