Lady Chucks battle, come up short; JV earns win

PUNXSUTAWNEY — The Lady Chucks' volleyball team led the first set 18-27 and was tied 20-20 in the third set, but the Bradford Lady Owls finished strong in each game, earning a three-game sweep, 25-18, 25-15, 25-22, Tuesday in Punxsutawney.

In the first set, Punxsy jumped out to an early lead behind a good hit by junior hitter Sydney Weaver, but the Lady Owls bounced back with some impressive hitting of their own to take a three-point lead.

After exchanging serve for several points, Punxsy moved ahead again when Cassie Cook went on a four-point service run, including three aces.

Two kills by Weaver pushed the Lady Chucks' lead to three points at 16-13, but after a few quick exchanges, Bradford's Lindsay Rinfrette ended the game with a six-point scoring run to claim the 25-18 win for the Lady Owls.

"The first set, we opened up really strong," Punxsy head coach Lisa Kephart said after the game. "I thought that was our game right there, but they had a couple nice runs that got us behind. They had a couple good servers and two good hitters that were hard for us to get around."

Weaver gave the Lady Chucks another 1-0 lead in Set No. 2 with a convincing kill, but Bradford took the lead two points later and never relinquished it.

Ali Linfrette's four-point run put the game out of reach for the Lady Owls, and Punxsy never seemed to recover.

In the third set, though, Punxsy came out with a renewed fire and passion, playing Bradford close the entire game.

"Aside from those runs, I thought we played well as a team," Kephart said. Everybody picked it up when they needed to. We just had a few minor issues with coverage."

Punxsy led the set 9-7 before another four-point run, this time by Emily Rinfrette, put Bradford ahead.

Aces by Chelsea Engeholm and Doney and some good hustle on scrambling volleys kept Punxsy in the game, but although they tied it late at 20-20, kills by Lindsay Rinfrette and Haley Vinelli helped to ice the game for the Lady Owls, who finished off the game and won 25-22.

One thing that worked well for Bradford was quick, low sets that led to hits with no blockers up.

"That's something we're not really used to seeing, so it is tough for us," Kephart said. "With us being a young team, we're not used to those quick sets, so it's tough for our blockers to adjust to that, especially when they set their tall middle hitter. She already had the height advantage, so that made it that much tougher."

The junior varsity contest was a different story, with the Lady Chucks earning a 25-23, 25-7 sweep of their own in two games over the Lady Owls.

"We played really well," Punxsy head coach Megan Decker said. "We struggled with our serves in the first game, but we played well enough to keep the lead and finish strong."

In the first set, Punxsy led 11-6 early, but fell victim to a six-point rally by Bradford freshman Hanna Vezina, which gave the Lady Owls a 12-11 lead.

Strong play at the net by Punxsy's Madison Neal gave Punxsy the lead back, though, as she earned a kill and won a joust with a Bradford opponent for two Punxsy points.

The game was close throughout, with both teams exchanging the lead, but a late kill by Emilee States and another by Neal on game point sealed the win for Punxsy, 25-23.

The second game was all Punxsy after an impressive 11-point run by Alyssa Reitz that included five aces gave the Lady Chucks a 12-2 lead.

Ivy Phillips, Sydney Phillips, States and Ashley Reitz each pitched in with an ace, as well, en route to the 25-7 victory.

"Our confidence level shapes the team that we are," Decker said. "Tonight, we were confident and played to every bit of our ability — especially during the second set."