Maplewood Tigers volleyball

The Maplewood Tiger starters get hyped as they take to the court for their match against Cochranton on Wednesday.

COCHRANTON — The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many events and traditions this year, but it wasn’t able to stop the important “Dig for a Cure” night involving the Maplewood Tigers and Cochranton Cardinals girls volleyball teams on Wednesday.

On the court, Maplewood completed its season-sweep of Cochranton. After earning a 3-1 win in the season-opener in Guys Mills on Sept. 14., the Tigers took care of business in straight sets on Wednesday, 25-17, 25-13, 25-15. 

Off the court, the Maplewood and Cochranton volleyball communities raised nearly $3,000 for the Yolando G. Barco Oncology Center in Meadville, while some money was raised for a Maplewood family that is currently affected by cancer. Those in attendance were able to take part in 50/50 raffles, games of chance for gift baskets and a drawing for half of a pig. 

Although the amount of people in attendance wasn’t as plentiful due to COVID-19, Maplewood coach Sheila Bancroft was more than pleased with the turnout.

“We’re happy that we were able to help,” Bancroft said. “It touches everyone, with friends and family members of the community. Anything we can do each year, we always look forward to this match. I’m glad that, even with COVID-19, we were able to pull it off. I think we did just as well raising some money than if we would have packed the gym. We planned this last-minute because early on when everything was bad, we didn’t think we we’re going to be able to do it. With things loosening up, and fans coming back, we figured we’d give it a shot. It wasn’t as big, but we ended raising just as much money.”

With players and the gymnasium decked out in pink, the action on the court was just as pleasing to Tiger fans as the positive effect of the event on the community.

Chloe Leech had 17 kills and 12 digs to lead Maplewood to its 12th straight victory. Sadie Thomas added 10 kills and nine digs, while Bailey Varndell chipped in 37 assists. Madison Crawford helped pace the defense with 12 digs.

Maplewood has been working on minimizing its unforced errors over the past few games, and the Tigers continued to be successful in that regard at Cochranton.

Maplewood committed just two service errors in the entire contest, with the first not occurring until the second set. Meanwhile, the Tigers made only just one hitting error on their way to the first set point of the night at 24-13 in game one. Although three straight errors kept the Cardinals alive, a tip from Kaysea Thomas gave Maplewood the first game.

With one service and one hitting error in game two, Maplewood continued to string points together. The Tigers posted a four-point run and two three-point stretches before ending the set by taking the final six points. In the third, Maplewood stormed ahead 17-3 before Cochranton stayed afloat with an 11-4 stretch. Leech’s kill on the second match point ended the night in three sets.

Bancroft was pleased with her team’s service game, saying committing only two service errors in the match was a “highlight.” She also happy with the team’s side-out game.

“I thought we really played a good side-out game,” Bancroft said. “Cochranton did some good things, but we were able to answer in side-out and put the ball away. Defensively, we improved from the other night against Saegertown. We need to play better defense and toward the end we got some better digs on the ball.”

Maplewood also got some big performances from their depth players on the roster. Outside hitter Kaysea Thomas chipped in seven kills, while middle hitters Madison Vergona and Avery Brunot added five and four kills, respectively. Eve Beuchat, who has recently returned from a concussion, saw plenty of time in the back row and recorded four digs, while Trista Robinson played the latter portion of the final set at the setter position, getting four assists.

Bancroft said after the game that the involvement of Thomas, Vergona, Brunot and Beuchat was not just to get them experience, rather it was earned from hard work on non-game days.

“They’ve been playing well and working hard it practice,” Bancroft said. “It wasn’t just a matter of getting them more involved. They’ve earned that and really have come on. Any position can change, but they’ve worked themselves into those positions by stepping up.”

Cochranton was paced offensively by Megan Heim (nine kills) and Lexie Moore (seven kills). Dana Jackson totaled 23 assists, while Taytum Jackson had 12 digs.

Bancroft admitted after the game that Cochranton was in a different place that her team at the time, especially with Devyn Sokol out, but she was still pleased to have their rivals in the rear-view mirror.

“It’s always our backyard rivalry, where we are friends off the court, but it’s always a fun match for everyone to play,” Bancroft said. “It’s great when we can beat a good team twice, and I’m glad we don’t have to play them the rest of the year. Cochranton is always fundamentally sound and Marci does a great job with them. We have just a little more fire power than they do right now.”

Maplewood (15-2 overall, 8-1 Region 4) has a quick turnaround as the Tigers will host Warren tonight at 7 in region play. Maplewood swept Warren on the road in their first contest on Sept. 29, but each set was decided by just two points. Bancroft said that the Dragons will not be taken lightly.

“We’ve got Warren (tonight), so we don’t have any time to rest,” Bancroft said. “That’s a huge region match. When we went to Warren we won, but it was only by two points every set. We’re not going to look ahead and just take care of business hopefully on our home floor.”

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