MEADVILLE, Pa. – Oh what could have been for the Warren Dragons.
Warren had leads of 11 and nine in the first two sets of Saturday’s District 10 Class 3A volleyball championship against Conneaut, only to watch as the Eagles rallied en route to their fourth consecutive title, 3-1 (25-23, 25-23, 26-28, 25-17).
“If we close out either one of them (first or second set), maybe it’s a different story,” said Warren coach Mike Dolan. “We’re super proud of them. Maybe it helped to have to battle against Meadville and Cathedral Prep in the third game of both of those, we really had to battle. We could have folded, but they kept fighting. That is a really good CASH team. They are well-coached and play great defense.”
The first set saw the Eagles go on a 13-0 run to take a 20-18 lead after trailing 18-7, and in the second, they took their first lead at 23-22 after trailing 17-8.
Nevertheless, the Dragons battled when other teams might have folded, rallying to take the third set 28-26 to extend the match.
“We just talked about how proud we are of them,” Dolan said. “They worked very hard and are an amazing group. They all get along really well. Super-proud of the way they competed.”
After the CASH rally in the first, Warren got strong hitting from Kylie Fehlman, Maddy Jones, Carly Beers, and Alexia Bowers to build a 17-8 advantage.
Again, the Eagles came back, starting with consecutive kills from Kaylee Mattera and Sylvia Prebor and an ace from Ashlee Barabas
Warren still had command at 22-19 after a kill from Jones, but CASH rattled off the next four points, with Paris Karastury notching an ace and Lainie Harrington a kill, as well as a Warren hitting error.
The Dragons got level at 23-all on a kill by Kirsten Johnson, but Conneaut was able to close out the set with back-to-back points.
Undeterred, Warren battled back to take the third set, 28-26 to extend the match. It was Conneaut that actually led, 18-14, but Warren went on a 4-0 run to tie it up, ending with a kill from Beers. Both teams had chances to close out the set before a long rally ended with a kill from Jones to give the Dragons the set.
“I think it helped, having to battle against Meadville and Cathedral Prep in the third game of both of those,” Dolan said. “We could have folded, but they kept fighting. That is a really good CASH team. They are well-coached and play great defense.”
Leading 11-10 in the fourth set, Conneaut went on a 7-0 run to assume command and ultimately close out the Dragons.
“They’re a fantastic team,” said Conneaut coach Christine Krankota of the Dragons. “They’re disciplined, well-coached, and are very balanced offensively. We knew that it was going to be a tall task.”
For Conneaut, Prebor finished with nine kills and four blocks, Harrington seven kills and three blocks, Payten Karastury 28 set assists and seven digs, Ashlee Barabas four aces, and Kenady Oates eight digs.
For Warren, making its first title game appearance since 2018 when they advanced all the way to the state final, Beers had seven kills, eight digs and one ace, Fehlman a team-high 13 kills, and four blocks, Jones nine kills, eight digs, three blocks, and two aces, Lindsay Madigan 35 set assists and six digs, Summer Lucks 23 digs and one ace, Bowers seven kills, Johnson three kills, three blocks, and two aces and Sophie Walker three digs and one assist.
“This is hugely valuable,” Dolan said. “Now the younger girls have the experience of being here. I don’t think they really showed it but there were a lot of nerves going into this one. Next year, hopefully, we can get back here and use this as a confidence booster.”