Penn State Fayette wins PUSAC Volleyball Championship
The Lady Roaring Lions, ranked eighth in the most recent United State Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) coaches’ poll, won by scores of 25-20, 25-18, 26-24 and 25-21. The championship is the third in four years for Penn State Fayette.
Fayette jumped to a quick two-games-to-none lead in the championships match, thanks to some great passing and strong defense. “We got the matchups we wanted in those first two games,” Fayette Head Coach Casey O’Brien said. “Then in that third game, Mont Alto made some adjustments. So for the last game, I just decided to go with our regular set and say ‘Come get us.’”
The adjustment paid off as the Lady Roaring Lions rattled off the first five points of the match, something that O’Brien was happy to see. “That really put the pressure on them,” he explained.
There were plenty of strong performances all the way around. Freshman Samantha Hawk (Geibel Catholic) led the way with 17 kills, Heather Kelly (Keystone Oaks) added 10, and Meghan Leary (Frazier) nine for the winners. Freshman Catie Sleasman (Connellsville) notched 41 assists in the four games.
“Sam (Hawk) and Meghan really stepped up today. It seemed like whenever they had a run, one of those two would make a play and get us back on track,” O’Brien said.
Sophomore Libero Abbie Renze (Geibel Catholic), who had 38 digs in the championship match, was all smiles after the game. “This is just wonderful,” she said. Both she and Kelly were also members of Fayette’s 2006 PSUAC championship team as well but felt this win was sweeter. “This one is more special because of the way we were as a team. We got along so well.”
“That was a key,” Renze added. “You always knew that your teammates were behind you, no matter what.”
Kelly noted that the championship was great for Penn State Fayette. “There were a lot of naysayers out there. I guess we proved them wrong.”
“This is the greatest thing ever,” said sophomore Lauren Golden, who keyed the team’s 3-0 semifinal win over Penn State Beaver earlier in the day with seven kills.
Sleasman, who never played the setter position before this year and ended up in the top five in assists nationally, shook her head and said, “Never in a million years did I think I would be playing for a championship and going to nationals.”
“This makes it all worth it,” Kelly added. “Sometimes, during the first practices, you wonder, ‘What am I doing?’ but once that first point is in, you realize it was all worth it.”
Sitting in his office after the win, O’Brien shook his head. “If you think of where we were back in August, with just five players (the roster expanded to 10 shortly after O’Brien was named interim coach) this is amazing. All of the pieces of the puzzle came together and they started working together and that was the key,” he said.
With the win, Fayette gains an automatic berth in the USCAA National Volleyball Championships Oct. 24-26 in Fort Wayne, Ind.