Clarion Area Volleyball Team Wins Second Straight PIAA State Championship, Joins 2000 and 2001 Bobcats Track and Field Team As Only Repeat Champions In KSAC History; Team Received Great Welcome Home From Community
(Images and video by Nate Girvan, Tanya Brooks and Clarion Sports Zone. Above photo: 2021 Clarion Area Bobcats – PIAA Class-A State Champions – Row 1 (L-R): Addiwyn Campbell. Kelsey Best, Natalie Durish, Bri Pierce, Noel Anthony, Aryana Girvan, Brenna Armstrong, Rihanna Dittman. Row 2 (L-R): Sophie Babington, Hadlee Campbell, Gia Babington, Taylor Alston, Grace Ochs, Assistant Coach Sam Beichner, Li Burford. Row 3 (L-R): Trainer Steve Seifert, Head Coach Shari Campbell, Team Manager Aiden Quinn, Jordan Best, Payton Simko, Korrin Burns, Adia Needham, Paola Lopez, Assistant Coach Tracy Durish.
The undefeated (20-0) Clarion Area Bobcats have once again ascended to the top of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Association (PIAA) Volleyball mountain, with a 3-0 (25-22, 25-13, 25-18) win, over the Sacred Heart Academy Lions, form Bryn Mawr in the State Class-A Championship match, at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg, on Saturday (November 20th).
This is the Bobcats’ third State championship, winning it all in 2012, last year and again this year. With the back-to-back championships, the team joins Clarion Area’s 2000 and 2001 Boys Track and Field team as the only teams in Clarion County High School sports history to repeat as State Champions. The only other Clarion County teams to win State championships, were the 1980 East Brady Boys Basketball and 2000 Karns City Girls Basketball teams.
When asked whether joining the Track and Field team in accomplishing this historic feat is something special, Head Coach Shari Campbell said, ‘It definitely is. These kids fit in with the program, particularly the seniors contributing for quite some time, Korrin (Burns) as a freshman and Jordan (Best) as a sophomore. It is just fun to see them accomplish that. It’s not an easy feat to get back, to handle the pressure, the emotions that go along with the expectations to repeat. (About) getting there, I told the girls, ‘It’s about timing. It’s about everything lining up, everybody being healthy. There is so much more than just being a great team, to winning a State championship. And to have that happen two years in a row is phenomenal.”
The 2020 and 2021 season’s were almost mirror images of each other, with the Bobcats being ranked number one by the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association (PVCA) from pre-season all the way to the seasons’ conclusions. The 2020 team lost only one set all year, in dual matches; the 2021 team lost only two sets.
The 2021 match, against Sacred Heart, in Cumberland Valley’s “Home Dome,” was somewhat of a mirror of the 2020 Championship also, with the Bobcats being challenged first set, but still winning the match in straight sets, just as they did against the Marian Catholic Fillies last year.
The Lions opened the first set with a 2-0 lead, on a service exchange and service point. Then Aryana Girvan got a kill and served for two more points, with Korrin Burns getting kills giving the Cats a 3-2 lead. Girvan also had two more service points in the set, with Burns getting several more kills. Sacred Heart came back to take a 7-4 lead after three service points by Elizabeth Cuskey.
The Bobcats tied the set at 7-all, after a Lions’ serve was long and the Cats got two service points from Noel Anthony; Payton Simko had a kill on the first one. The lead changed hands several times the rest of the way. Clarion was behind by one 21-20, came back to lead 22-21, only to have Sacred Heart tie it at 22-all. The Bobcats took the lead at 23-22 on a double block by Simko and Noel Anthony. The set was put away with Anthony getting the final two points, the last one an ace.
The second set started with a service break for the Lions, followed by two service points by Aly Albanese, But with a service break and two service points by Girvan, the first with a kill by Burns and the second on a tip by Simko, the score was tied 3-all.
The Bobcats were down 6-4, but a Sacred Heart service went long. That was followed by eight-straight service points by Anthony, including 3 aces, four kills by Burns and two double blocks by Simko and Burns, which put Clarion up by a 15-6 score. From there, the Cats closed out the second set, with a 10-6 advantage, which included two service points each by Burns and Girvan and one service point by Grace Ochs and the clincher by Adia Needham.
Set three saw Clarion jump out to a 3-0 lead on a service break and two service points by Girvan. The Cats led 10-2 following three service points by Needham and two more by Anthony, with Sacred Heart’s points coming on service breaks.
The Lions hung tough, trailing by four points at 22-18. But a long serve followed by Burns with the final two service points, the first with her own kill and the second on an ace, the Bobcats were State champs again. Burns and Ochs also contributed two service points on the final run.
Burns finished the match with 19 kills, 8 points (3 aces), and seven digs. For her efforts she was named the “Lebanon Valley College Player of the Game,” by the Pennsyvania Cable Network, which broadcast the match.
After learning of Burns winning the Player of the Game Award, Coach Campbell said, “She’s had an amazing season. I don’t have the number in front of me but it’s close to 600 (kills) this year. That’s a good number. It was good seeing her getting back to the serve line and serve match point, that’s for sure.”
Anthony dished out 33 assists, while scoring 15 points (3 aces), while collecting 8 digs and two kills. Girvan scored 10 points (1 ace), delivered 10 kills and six digs. Needham delivered on 7 points (1 ace), 4 kills and two digs.
Simko had 6 kills and two digs. Best registered 8 digs and two kills. Ochs scored 3 service points and Taylor Alston contributed four blocks and a dig.
Coach Campbell had this to say about the team fighting back, after being down in the first set, “I definitely think it’s a real emotional thing, for our seniors setting foot into that arena, and knowing it’s their last match. I think there is a little adrenaline; they were hitting balls out a little bit. But then we just settled in to play volleyball, took it one play at a time.
“I thought Noel Anthony’s service in Set Two really made us space – took a lead. Adia Needham in set one, her block and then the ace, I think deflated Sacred Heart a bit.
“It was really a great all-around effort. Aryana Girvan, in set one, was a key factor. We saw some great play from Payton Simko hitting the ball; she had six kills and hit above 300. I thought that Jordan Best played very well. They served at her in particular and she managed that very well. Taylor Alston and Adia Needham played the middle very well,. Taylor had 4 blocks for kills. Adia from the serving line. And playing against those middles that were running a very quick tempo; I think we managed that very well. And Noel serving was certainly something that Sacred heart had a hard time with.”
Coach Campbell mentioned that Taylor’s “blocking in the match was tremendous on Saturday.”
The Championship celebration extended all the way from Cumberland Valley High School to Clarion Area High School, with the Bobcats receiving an escort from exit 64 of of I-80 (Clarion – New Bethlehem) to and through Clarion Borough to the School. The escort was provided by Clarion Fire & Rescue No. 1 and the Clarion Borough and Clarion University of Pennsylvania Police Forces.
The procession made it’s way onto Main Street from Seventh, where boisterous fans were gathered to in the celebration.
Once the escort reached the area around the Post Office, the team got off their chartered bus and walked to rest of the way to the school, State Championship Trophy on full display, amid the cheers, well wishes, honking horns and confetti, from the Clarion community that reveled in this great source of local pride.
And about the Hometown Celebration, Coach Campbell shared, “Last year, it was such a surprise; it was so uplifting. This year, people reached out and wanted to do it again. And it was even more attended by our community. And it is great to celebrate with our community. It’s great to see people enjoying what these girls do and being proud of them. It gives our community something positive. It’s always something to be a part of.”
What a super time for this team and this community!
Congratulations Clarion Bobcat Volleyball and congratulations to the entire Clarion Community!!!!! CLARION PROUD!!!!!
(Thanks to Nate and Tanya for the images and video!!)
Link to Nate’s Medal Ceremony video.
Link to Tanya’s parade video.
Link to Nate’s parade video.