MECHANICHSBURG - To win a state title is special in itself but to win two in a row puts a team in rarified air.
The Clarion Area High School volleyball team reached that unique level Saturday morning (Nov. 20) at Cumberland Valley High School.
The Bobcats swept District 1 champion Sacred Heart 3-0 to claim the second-straight PIAA Class A championship for Clarion.
The extraordinary Bobcats' achievement was not lost on Clarion senior setter Noel Anthony.
"It's so exciting to do this with this team again," Anthony said. "It's so special to do it once and we got to do it in back-to-back years."
Anthony's teammate and fellow senior libero Jordan Best was happy to end her career in grand fashion.
"This is my last game of volleyball ever and this was the best way to end it," Best said.
Best had eight digs on defense.
This is Clarion head coach Shari Campbell's third PIAA championship since 2012.
"It is really special to stay so steadfast to goals when you are 15, 16 and 17 years old so I am very proud of them," Campbell said. "This team is unique because they are always evolving and changing who they are. So I have to be able to evolve and change with them and it has been a fun journey."
It wasn't easy for the Bobcats as Sacred Heart battled them toe-to-toe through the first game and the first half of the second set.
The Bobcats won the first set by a score of 25-22 and the three-point spread at the end was the Bobcats largest lead of the game.
Korrin Burns had seven kills in the first game but the Bobcats couldn't pull away.
Unforced errors were a bugaboo for Clarion in the first game as the Bobcats made 10 miscues in the first set which kept the Lions in the game.
Burns finished with 19 kills. She also had seven digs on defense.
Aryana Girvan made five kills in Game One. Girvan finished with 10 kills. Girvan also had 10 points from the service line and made seven digs on defense.
Sacred Heart took a 21-20 lead on a Riley Fisher block but the Bobcats rallied for two-straight points on back-to-back kills by Burns.
Burns attempted to push the Clarion lead to two on the next point but her kill attempt went long and the game was tied at 22-22.
Adia Needham got the Bobcats the lead back when she made a block on a kill attempt by Emily McKenna. An unforced error by the Lions on the next point pushed the Clarion lead to 24-22. Needham put the game away with an ace as the Bobcats took Game One 25-22.
Needham had seven points from the service line.
Sacred Heart jumped out to a 6-4 lead in the second game with Emily McKenna making back-to-back kills.
However, an unforced error followed by a service ace by Anthony kickstarted a 14-1 rally.
Campbell credits Anthony's play from the service line as the key to the Bobcats' run.
"She stepped back to that line and she has some good movement on her serves," Campbell said. "She sometimes serves that ball at 42 miles an hour."
Anthony finished with 15 points which included two aces. Anthony also made eight digs on defense.
Burns had five kills in the span and served for an ace while Payton Simko also had a kill.
Simko finished with six kills.
Clarion cruised to the 25-13 win in Game Two.
In Game Three, Clarion ripped out to a 10-2 lead with Burns, Simko and Needham each making a kill.
Anthony also made a kill from her setter position. Anthony made a total of three kills where she looked like she was going to make a set and just deposited the ball over the net.
"I have powerful hitters on the team and (Sacred Heart) thought the ball was going to go to the (powerful hitters) and sometimes just putting it over is all you really need," Anthony said.
The Lions chipped away at the Bobcats lead getting to within three points at 19-16.
McKenna had a block and a kill in the comeback while Elizabeth Cuskey made two kills.
Burns extinguished the Lions slim hopes of a comeback by depositing a pair of kills to push the Clarion lead to 21-16.
Burns clinched the match by serving for an ace on match point to seal the 25-18 win.
Burns served for eight points with three aces.
Clarion finishes its season with a 21-0 record and the Bobcats did not lose a set in regular season play or through seven rounds of the District 9 and PIAA playoffs. Moreover, Clarion has not lost a match since the 2019 PIAA Class A semifinals.
Clarion will graduate five seniors off the team including Burns, Best, Anthony, Simko and Paola Lopez but Campbell is excited for the future of the program.
"We have a lot of young kids who are great athletes and we have Girvan, Grace Ochs, Bri Pierce, Needham returning," Campbell said. "It's exciting and we have kids with great volleyball I.Q.'s coming up. It will be fun to build it but we have a strong foundation already."