Elizabethtown lost one match in its first 13 matches, but is now 1-2 in its last three matches, which spans the regular season and postseason.
Elizabethtown, the Section Two girls volleyball champions, defeated Cocalico, the Section Three runner-up, 3-0 (25-23, 25-19, 25-13) in the first round of the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs on Saturday, Oct. 21.
The Bears established an early lead in the first set as they held a 13-6 lead and 16-10 lead at one point, but the Eagles won six consecutive points to tie the match at 16-16 before coach Dave Pittman called a timeout. Cocalico won three of the next four points, but Elizabethtown rallied to win the set 25-23.
Pittman has previously said that he doesn’t like to take timeouts, but he will when he feels like he needs to bail the team out. This timeout, however, was not one that he called to bail the team out.
“We lost our identity and we have lost our identity with our attacking and our offense. We only set the front row. If you think about what happened after, we immediately went back to our full offense where we were setting the offense to the back row and getting some more swings,” Pittman said.
Key to running the offense, Pittman said, is getting senior outside hitter Taylor Beeler and senior middle hitter Bri Eberly to perform at a high level.
“Taylor has got our big arm and Bri. Those are the two big arms and we have four other hitters that contribute. Montana [Sauder] had a good match tonight and when she is getting a high-set ball and it gets single blocked it gets tough for somebody to beat her,” Pittman said.
The second set didn’t feature the long runs that each team went on in the first set, but Elizabethtown was able to string together one 5-0 run to win the second set 25-19 on an ace from Rebecca Epps, which was one of the team-leading four that she recorded.
In the third set, the Bears continued to find their footing and settled in to the game. They won nine of the first 13 points and 12 of the final 18 points to finish off the Eagles 25-13. The game-winning point came from Beeler’s ace, who lead the team with nine klls. Sauder and Eberly joined Beeler with nine kills as well. Eberly also had a team-high three blocks.
Following the first round victory, Pittman referenced that the team hit a “dead spot” after a 3-2 loss to Dallastown to end the season on Thursday, Oct. 19. The Bears won the first two sets (25-21, 25-17) before they lost the final three sets (25-22, 25-22, 15-10).
“We thought we’d change some things up today and work through some things. We’re scrappy, but we’re not really where I want us to be right now,” Pittman said.
Elizabethtown won the Section Two championship three days prior and Pittman said that he is hopeful that the team did not get complacent with the section title.
“I think that does happen. You set a goal at the beginning of the year and we achieved that goal. I don’t think we’re just a section champion team. I think we have the ability to do well in leagues and we have a very good possibility of getting a state berth, but we have to play better than we have,” Pittman said.
The loss to Dallastown was the team’s second of the season and while a loss can sometimes motivate a team, Pittman is not a coach that shares that mindset.
“It would’ve helped us to get the win versus the loss. I would agree with that maybe in the boys sports, but I don’t know that I would agree with that in the ladies’ sports. I think that the girls need to make sure that they stay on a high because at any time you’re great on one set and the next set it looks like you’ve never played before. In boys it’s not quite the same way,” Pittman said.
The victory over Cocalico sent Elizabethtown on to a semifinal matchup against Warwick on Monday, Oct. 23, that was played at Lancaster Mennonite. The Warriors were the only other team to defeat Elizabethtown this season. Warwick won the match 3-1 (26-24, 25-22, 23-25, 25-18) at its home gym.
The Warriors opened the semifinal with 25-17 victory in the first set. Pittman called for a timeout after Warwick won five consecutive points to give themselves a 12-8 lead over the Bears. Warwick won six of the final seven points in the set to put Elizabethtown in an early hole.
Elizabethtown jumped out to a 12-5 lead in the second set before Warwick won eight of the next nine points to tie the match at 13-13. The two teams split the next 18 points and were tied 22-22, but the Bears were able to win three of the final four points and won the set 25-22 on Eberly’s block. She finished the match with two and led the team in aces (2) and kills (11).
The Warriors led the Bears 8-3 to open the third set before the Bears won five straight to tie the set. The set was still tied at 22-22 much like the second set and the Bears were once able to put the Warriors away with a kill from Eberly, Beeler and an ace from Ashley NyeSmith.
Warwick opened the fourth set with a 10-3 and would not look back. The Warriors tied the match at 2-2 with a 25-16 win in the fourth set.
For the fourth time this season, the Bears found themselves playing in a decisive fifth set. They were 2-1 in those matches in the regular season.
Warwick led Elizabethtown 11-7 before the Bears cut their deficit to one point. Warwick, the defending Lancaster-Lebanon League champions, won the final set 15-12 to win the match 3-2 (25-17, 23-25, 22-25, 25-16, 15-12).
“At the end of the day, it’s all about our passing. We didn’t pass well, really, all night. We’ve gotta do a better job passing the ball. If we pass the ball, we were able to score rather easily,” Pittman said.
The loss shifted Elizabethtown’s focus to the District Three playoffs, where they earned the No. 6 seed. The Bears are scheduled to play No. 11 Dallastown on Saturday, Oct. 28, at Central York High School at 10 a.m.
Recalling the previous match against Dallastown, Pittman said that they have two “real good” hitters that they must keep an eye on when they’re hitting from the outside in the back row.
While those two hitters will be the focus of Elizabethtown’s defense, the offense will be focused on their passing in order to play a complete match.
“To be honest with you, we’ve just gotta pass the ball. If we pass the ball we can play with anybody,” Pittman said.