PUNXSUTAWNEY — Coming off their sixth-straight District IX Class AA Championship, the Punxsy volleyball team feels as good as ever about its chances of advancing past the first stage of the PIAA playoffs this weekend.
In years past, Punxsy would run into a talented WPIAL foe that, for the most part, overpowered the Lady Chucks in a best-of-five match. This season, Punxsy will test its mettle against three teams in a round-robin tournament that begins at 10 a.m. Saturday at the North Hills Junior High School Annex.
Punxsy will face District X champion Meadville in the first round, followed by District VI champion Penn Cambria and District VII runner-up Indiana, as all four teams will play each other in three sets, with the best two schools advancing to the Nov. 19-20 state tournament in York.
More than ever, Punxsy is ready to duke it out with those three schools with a shot of improving to the next level of states on the line.
"They are very confident going in with the new format, and I am very confident with the new format," Punxsy head coach Lisa Good said. "We will go in there and play to the best of our ability, and whoever comes out alive, comes out alive."
What made Punxsy so successful last Saturday in Clarion when it swept both Kane and St. Marys, 3-0 each, was its efforts as a complete team. No player stood out above the rest, as each member of the Lady Chucks played her part, whether it was service points, digs, set assists or kills.
"Everyone did their job to make it a successful day. I felt a calm confidence from the team as they played," said Good, regarding last Saturday's district-winning performance. "They never got rattled, never panicked. Instead, they stayed with their game plan and used their heads and focused on what they needed to do."
What will be a challenge for Punxsy is Saturday's improved level of play. The Lady Chucks have dominated District IX for years now, but the competition jumps up a level at states.
Punxsy will now begin to face more diverse offenses that can find all the holes on the court with their tips, dumps and kills.
"It's definitely a little different trying to cover different areas of the court. You're going to have a lot more power hitters, and it's going to be coming off the block (harder)," Good said. "You're really going to have to cover all of the court now at this level."
However, the Lady Chucks did prove they could hang with — and even best — some of the most talented teams in western Pennsylvania when they won the West Shamokin tournament Oct. 16 while amassing a 10-0 record on the day.
"They can play with these teams. Definitely," Good said. "We have the defense, we have the sets, we have the offense, and we have the block. We have everything we need. It's just putting it all together and covering our soft spots."
Punxsy entered the 2010 season with its most experienced and possibly most talented team during its six-year title reign. Now, the Lady Chucks will have a shot at creating new history by reaching the state tournament in York if they are successful this weekend.