Sheffield's Emily Foster. File photo by Cody Elms.

Sheffield Battles Two-time State Champs Hard but Falls in Three in D9 Volleyball First Round

October 25, 2022

CLARION, Pa. – For a brief period during the first set of its 3-0 (25-18, 25-12, 25-13) loss at Clarion in the opening round of the District 9 Class 1A playoffs, the Sheffield volleyball team had the two-time defending PIAA champions on the ropes.

Rallying from an early 7-1 deficit, Sheffield found itself tied at 17 following a 3-0 run that started with a Peyton Wotorson kill and included a pair of mistakes by Clarion – a net violation and a setting mistake.

Rewatch the match:

Alas, following a Lady Cats’ timeout, Clarion showed why it has won four straight D9 1A titles by running off the next seven points and eight of the next nine to put the set away

“I think they were just really communicating with each other,” Sheffield head coach Melissa Lemay said of her team in the first set. “We wanted to come here and show we could compete with the two-time reigning state champs, that we could at least put forth a battle and not let them walk all over us. We are proud of our program. We are a tiny little school. Everybody who comes out for our teams gets an opportunity to play. Our job is to take that group and make it cohesive and make it work together. We’re going to keep working.”

While Sheffield fought hard to get things tied late in that first set, a few mistakes late in the set hurt the Lady Wolverines.

Clarion broke the tie on an error, and then used a pair of aces that Sheffield got hands on to make it 21-17 before a pair of balls into the net by Kassidy Orinko pushed the Clarion lead to 24-17.

Those mistakes started to manifest themselves even more in the second and third sets for Sheffield, which fell behind 16-4 in the second set and 13-4 in the third set.

“We were making a lot of unforced errors with a lot of balls into the net,” Lemay said. “I think the harder they pressed in the second and third sets not to make mistakes, I think they started to make a few more mistakes.”

It didn’t help Sheffield’s cause that Clarion was able to take Orinko, the leading attacker for the Lady Wolverines, out of the match. Orinko finished with just one kill.

“They did a fantastic job of shutting Kassidy down,” Lemay said.

Emily Foster stepped in to fill some of the void leading Sheffield with seven kills while adding nine digs. Wotorson added four kills.

Kadence Steffan ran the offense with 11 set assists, and Emily Davidson paced the defense with 12 digs.

Aryana Girvan had 16 kills and eight digs for Clarion with Adia Needham adding seven kills. Grace Ochs ran the offense for the Lady Cats with 30 set assists and added five digs, and Bri Pierce had a set-high 13 digs.

Clarion, which has won 13 straight postseason games and 13 straight D9 postseason games, will face third-seeded Otto-Eldred in the quarterfinals at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Otto-Eldred.

Sheffield’s season came to an end, but Lemay was happy with the way her team performed, especially in the second half of the year.

“I am very proud of them,” Lemay said. “I think one of the big things too is Kassidy was injured and then Lexi (Goldthwaite) was sick. We had a whole bunch of people who were sick. Finally, we got to the point where we were physically well. Then we had a little bout where we were mentally not well. I think here in the last week we really put it together with the physical aspect and the mental aspect. I am super proud of how they played today.”

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