Clarion spikers cruise into PIAA semifinals

Clarion’s Erica Selfridge recorded her 1,000th career kill in the Bobcats’ PIAA quarterfinal sweep of West Shamokin.

CLARION - Erica Selfridge recorded 15 kills, including her 1,000th career kill, as No. 1 Clarion rolled past visiting No. 2 West Shamokin into the PIAA Class 1A semifinals, 3-0 Saturday afternoon .

The Bobcats (22-0) won two of the three sets easily -- 25-10 in the first set and 25-11 in the third set -- and led 19-10 in the second set before holding on for a 25-23 victory.

"I thought it was going to be a lot closer, to be honest," Selfridge said. "But, I think we executed the ball really well. That's why the scores were how they were."

Selfridge was a big reason Clarion as able to execute as well as it did, as she recorded five kills in the first set, seven in the second, and three in the third while become the second Bobcats hitter to reach the 1,000-kill milestone in as many matches joining Korrin Burns, who recorded her 1,000th kill in the District 9 title game victory over Elk County Catholic a week ago.

"I did know about it, and I am really happy about it," Selfridge said of getting 1,000 kills. "I don't want to say that I don't care, but I want to keep playing."

Playing isn't something anyone on Clarion's team has taken for granted during these COVID-19 times were teams and schools have been forced to shut down, sometimes on a moment's notice.

"Every step that we make that is forward is a true accomplishment," Clarion head coach Shari Campbell said. "Every day is a gift. I think that's a really big lesson for everybody, not just his team. You have to just love what you're doing, the day that you get to do it. We're just thankful that we get to do it again."

West Shamokin, while being able to play, had to deal with the effects of COVID-19 Saturday with one of its top hitters, Maddie McConnell, out because of a quarantine situation. That coupled with the Wolves' top hitter, Lexie Young, battling an ankle injury that left her at less than 100 percent, wasn't lost on Campbell.

"(Young) is a great outside hitter," Campbell said. "She's injured. If she was here (100 percent), we would probably be talking about a four- or five-set match. And then I think (McConnell) due to COVID quarantine, she is a formidable outside also. That completely changes the makeup of this match for sure."

While the absence of McConnell and the limited ability of Young may have played a role, so did Clarion's constant attack.

The Bobats recorded 39 kills in the match compared to 14 for West Shamokin with Burns adding 14 and Aryana Girvan seven, including three right out of the gate when Clarion took an early 8-2 lead in the first set.

"It's always a point of emphasis for us to be diverse," Campbell said. "If something is working, we ride it."

What was working in the first set were feeds to both Selfridge and Girvan, as the duo combined for 10 kills in the set.

"I just usually don't think about it," Selfridge, who completed a double-double with 10 digs, said of her contributions. "If you don't think about it, you don't get too nervous. (It's) just about playing with the team, what happens will happen."

Thanks to Selfridge and Girvan, Clarion was never threatened in the first set, and the second set looked like it was going to be more of the same when the Bobcats jumped out to the 19-10 lead thanks to three kills from Selfridge and two each from Girvan and Burns.

But West Shamokin showed while it was so highly ranked battling back to close the gap to 19-16 thanks to a pair of kills from Lily Jordan.

Clarion looked like it regrouped when the Bobcats pushed the lead to 24-19 on a Burns kill, but the Wolves kept pushing and got back within one, 24-23, following a Burns' hitting error.

But Jordan sailed a serve long giving Clarion the two sets to none lead.

"I wasn't nervous," Campbell said. "I (was) just kind of demanding that we get out of our own heads and work as a team and connect and talk. I think we had some indecisive moments. As soon as we kind of started working together, started talking, then it was easy to finish that. But they are a great team, so I expected them to play us tough."

Any thought of West Shamokin gaining momentum from that second set quickly vanished when Clarion rolled to a 10-2 lead in the third set, and the Bobcats quickly expanded that to 13-4 on a pair of Selfridge kills and a kill by Burns.

"I was happy with how we started the third set," Campbell said. "I think Korrin took that second game to heart and decided to come out swinging. I think she had the shoulders to say get on my back, I've got this one."

Clarion will face Bishop Canevin in the PIAA semifinals at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 17, at Bishop Canevin High School. It is the Bobcats third appearance in the PIAA semifinals in four years and its second in as many seasons.