Rockets pitched in District 10 Class 2A quarterfinals; Sharon falls at Mercyhurst Prep

Oct. 25—MEADVILLE — Two local volleyball teams took to the field Monday at the Meadville area high school. One walked away victorious. The other’s season is over.

Slippery Rock and Sharon competed in the first round of the District 10 Class 2A tournament. The Rockets beat Union City in straight sets. But the Tigers fell to Mercyhurst Prep 3-1.

The Rockets won 25-20, 25-15, 25-23. They will face the top-seeded North East in the quarter-finals on Wednesday. A time and location have not been announced.

Slippery Rock (13-5) was in charge of the first set. The Rockets took an early lead and used a balance of inside and outside attacks to keep the pressure on the Bears.

Then things started to tighten up.

The second set saw the Bears put some points on the board. But the Rockets didn’t panic. They regained possession after Union City’s opening goal and stuck to the strategy of a 10-point win.

“The Union City kind of are the exact same team as us – scrappy, all over the floor, playing to the last point,” Slippery Rock head coach Brandon Ferrier said. “I just said (to the Rockets) to go back, play our game. Let the mistakes go to the other side instead of our side.”

However, the Bears put even more pressure on the Rockets in the third set. They took an 8-2 lead, forcing the Rockets to play from behind.

The Rockets closed the gap to 18-17 in the third set. They eventually tied the set at 21 before taking a 23-21 lead and then closing out the win.

“That (17th point) and the tie point was just the turnover for them,” Ferrier said. “It was the ignition of the car, starting it and running it after that.”

The Rockets face a familiar opponent in the Northeast on Wednesday. The Rockets and Grape Pickers faced each other in the tournament last season, but haven’t seen each other this year.

“I can’t wait to get to work,” Ferrier said. “I’m going home, I’m going to find some stuff.”

In the second game of the night, the Tigers lost to Mercyhurst Prep 19-25, 10-25, 25-23, 22-25.

KyKy Hasan had eight kills, eight blocks and eight digs to lead the Tigers (7-11). Jamoria Crumby had 13 assists and eight digs. Kylie Weirick finished with 10 assists. Cameryn Krecek had nine recoveries, Claire Bodien added eight and Amara Lopez had six. Ondrea Young finished with six wins.

Sharon had a tough climb in the first round of the playoffs. They arrived as the 12th seed, the lowest of the group, and they lacked playoff experience.

The Tigers didn’t have much playing experience to draw on either since they didn’t have a senior on this year’s roster.

This inexperience sometimes showed up during the first two sets.

Sharon quickly took a 6-2 lead, but the fifth-seeded Lakers came back. The first set was tied at 17 before Mercyhurst ran off to take the first frame.

The Lakers kept their momentum going after the break and controlled the second set early on. They took an early lead and the Tigers didn’t have many chances to hold onto the ball.

“When taking over the program, (the players) didn’t know how to close the sets,” Sharon’s head coach Stephanie Huska said. “They didn’t know how to win games, learning what that progress is – especially with these young players – learning how to close sets, when it’s the critical moment what to do.”

But the Tigers fought their way through the third frame to extend the game. The Lakers held a 7-4 lead early in the period, but Sharon managed to even the score at 8.

From that point on, the set saw dots swing back and forth. Mercyhurst Prep held a slim 23-21 lead before the Tigers claimed the final four points and the set.

The fourth set saw another tight streak as the score was tied at 10. The Tigers had a bit of a break when they took a 14-11 lead, but the Lakers closed the gap.

The Tigers held a 22-19 lead in the set before the Lakers scored the final six points to claim the fourth set and take the game, ending the Tigers’ season.

It was a year of growth for the Tigers. Sharon had three wins in the previous two seasons but had a seven-win year in 2022.

“To start the freshman year not winning any games, winning three last year and making the playoffs this year is just insane,” Weirick said. “It’s so nice to be part of a growing program. It just makes it even more bittersweet.”

Huska said the players’ progress was a byproduct of the work they put in during the offseason. The summer has been filled with camps and learning what it takes to compete against playoff-caliber programs.

The Tigers coach said the next step is to make the players more comfortable in these tight competitions against quality opponents. The Tigers recently took Oil City to five sets. Now Huska wants to see the players learn from their new experience in the D-10 playoffs and improve in 2023.

“Really, I think it comes down to more reps, discipline on what needs to happen in practice to close out those sets,” Huska said.

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