KNOX - Both the A-C Valley and Keystone volleyball teams will be District 9 playoff participants in less than a month and on Tuesday night (Oct. 8) the squads put on a contest that was worthy of any championship tournament.
The visiting Falcons outlasted the Panthers in a five-set thriller in KSAC play.
"Fortunately, we are 3-for-3 in five-set matches this year," A-C Valley head coach Doug Knox said. "We came through with a couple and plays when we needed to."
The teams traded wins through the first four games as A-C Valley rallied from a 23-17 deficit to take a 27-25 win in Game One. In the second game, Keystone held off a Falcon rally to take a 25-22 win. Game Three saw the Falcons rebound with a 25-23 win but the Panthers forced a fifth set with a 25-22 win in Game Four.
In the fifth set, Keystone jumped out to a 3-0 lead but A-C Valley countered with a 7-2 run to take a 7-5 lead and the Falcons would never trail again as they took the final game 15-9.
The win moves A-C Valley to 11-1 on the season.
Andrea Meals and Meah Ielase were key figures for the Falcons' the entire night but were especially important for A-C Valley in the fifth and deciding game. Meals had four kills and an ace in the final set while Ielase totaled three kills.
Meals finished the night with 10 kills and five blocks.
"She had a very good night (at the net)," Knox said. "She played big when it mattered most."
Ielase's importance to the Falcons' cause was revealed in Game One when she served for six-straight points when A-C Valley was two points away from the loss.
"She is my number one server," Knox said referring to Ielase. "She has only missed four serves all year."
Ielase served for 12 points while also making 10 kills on offense and 26 digs on defense.
In Game Two, A-C Valley jumped to a 13-9 lead but the Panthers chipped away at the A-C Valley lead with Jozee Weaver serving for five-straight points including back-to-back aces and Alyssa Dunlap provided four kills in the Panthers closing rally as they took the 25-22 win.
Dunlap made 15 kills for Keystone while also making 18 digs.
There was a scary moment for Keystone senior McKenna Kaye in Game Three when she went headlong into the floor during play for a point and hit her head off the floor. Kaye had to be removed from the game and evaluated but eventually returned.
Kaye finished the night with 11 assists, 10 digs and seven kills.
The Panthers rallied to within a point at 24-23 when Dunlap buried back-to-back kills but the Falcons escaped when the Panthers were whistled for hitting the ball four times before crossing the net sealing the 25-23 win for the Falcons.
It looked like A-C Valley might salt the match away in Game Four as the Falcons jumped to an 11-7 lead with Mia Sherman providing a block and a kill in the span while Hannah Farrington provided an ace from the service line.
Sherman finished with nine kills and four blocks while Farrington had the one ace while making 19 digs and seven kills.
Later in Game Four, Keystone was able to break an 18-18 tie by going on a 4-0 run behind a block and a kill from Ceayra Altman while Weaver made two kills.
Altman totaled 12 kills while making 18 digs as Weaver posted 11 kills and four blocks.
Keystone sealed the Game Four win when A-C Valley was whistled for being in the net twice.
"We weren't doing a very good job of getting the ball in play in the second, third and fourth games," Knox said. "Keystone outplayed us. We couldn't find a spot on the floor to hit to against (Keystone's) defense."
Knox continued, "(Keystone) is one team I do not want to see in the playoffs. I was impressed."
Keystone opened the fifth set with a 3-0 splurge with Altman and Leah Exley each making a kill while Alexandria Johnston served for three points.
Johnston served for six points while piling up 28 assists and 16 digs.
Exley finished the night with six kills, five blocks with 15 points and six aces from the service line.
With Keystone leading 5-3, A-C Valley went on a four-point splurge with Ielase recording a pair of kills while Sherman and Meals each providing a kill.
Johnston broke the Falcons run with a kill for the Panthers but a pair of unforced Keystone errors pushed the A-C Valley lead back to 9-6.
Dunlap recorded a kill on the next point to trim the A-C Valley advantage to two but Meals responded with a kill for the Falcons to push the A-C Valley lead back to three.
A-C Valley never saw its lead dip below three points the rest of the way. Farrington sealed the win with an ace on match point.
Emily Wetzel provided 24 digs, 18 assists and 13 points for A-C Valley while Tarra Stefanacci had 20 digs and 16 assists and Rachel Cullen made 22 digs from her libero position.
The loss drops Keystone to 10-4 on the season.
"We're a young team so this was great experience for our kids," Keystone head coach Bryan Mong said. "This was one of those games where you hate to see anyone lose. We knew A-C Valley is tough. It was a great test for us. It's a great growing experience. And I told the girls after the game that they don't have anything to hang your heads about."
A-C Valley is back in action tonight (Oct. 10) at home against Venango Catholic.
Keystone will travel to face Redbank Valley tonight.