Strong ef­fort by Pat­ter­son, Jags still can’t stop North Al­legheny

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - SPORTS - By Matthew DeGe­orge mde­ge­orge@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @sports­doc­tormd on Twit­ter

STATE COL­LEGE » Erin Pat­ter­son said it with an ex­hausted grin Tues­day evening, though her play made her ver­bal­iz­ing a mere for­mal­ity.

Pat­ter­son didn’t want Gar­net Val­ley’s vol­ley­ball ride to end, she con­firmed in words and in deed at State Col­lege High School. It was only af­ter four match points saved that the re­solve was fi­nally bro­ken by un­beaten North Al­legheny.

Pat­ter­son buried 22 kills for the Jaguars, who couldn’t seal a two-set lead in a 3-2 set­back to the Tigers in the PIAA Class 4A semi­fi­nals.

The Jags grit­ted out the first two sets, 27-25 and 2523, be­fore North Al­legheny surged, 25-19, 25-16 and 2018.The fifth was a clas­sic, North Al­legheny claim­ing a 13-9 lead and four times putting the Jaguars to the sword. But the Jags ral­lied and even had a pair of match points be­fore North Al­legheny fi­nally put mat­ters to rest.

In the process, it ban­ished the de­fend­ing state cham­pion Jags (19-6), end­ing a streak of 10 straight wins for Gar­net Val­ley in elim­i­na­tion con­tests dat­ing to last sea­son.

“I re­ally did not want this to end,” Pat­ter­son said. “I mean, se­nior year, it would’ve been great to have two my neck, hard.”

The fi­nal point was fit­tingly put away by the player who turned the tide for North Al­legheny (23-0): Kayla Dink­ins. The Tu­lane signee was held in check for the first two sets. But the 6-foot mid­dle block ad­justed with fear­some ef­fect in the third. She fin­ished with 16 kills to aug­ment six blocks, the fi­nal point a re­jec­tion at the net that she put down to set off the cel­e­bra­tions.

Dink­ins had eight kills and two blocks in the third set alone, key­ing a re­ver­sal of for­tune for the Tigers. It be­gan with an af­fir­ma­tion:

“Just that we’re not los­ing and we’re go­ing to play our game,” Dink­ins said. “We wanted to play hard and not lose.”

Once Dink­ins es­tab­lished the threat in the mid­dle, the op­tions around her also flour­ished. Mika Lo­gan, an­other Di­vi­sion I player bound for East­ern Kentucky, led the way with 18 kills. Dink­ins’ dan­ger drew block­ers away from the likes of Anna Sprys, who pro­vided 13 kills, in­clud­ing one to stave off match point at 16-15, the first of four con­sec­u­tive points scored by the 5-11 ju­nior mid­dle with Dink­ins ro­tated to the side­line.

Avery Tu­man chipped in eight kills and fresh­man Paige Miller added seven, the lethal at­tack or­ches­trated by set­ter Abby medals around but we fought Miller, who tal­lied and nine kills.

Gar­net Val­ley’s de­fen­sive met­tle never waned, spear­head­ing the short­lived come­back ef­fort. Am­ber Gold­berg (27 digs) was able to keep a Dink­ins smash from crash­ing to the floor in one of the pre­cious few in­stances of that at 1113 in the fifth, set­ting up a Gwen Clark kill.

“I think we just knew what was com­ing and we just wanted it so bad that we found ways to get it up,” set­ter Rachel Cain said. “And our de­fense is amaz­ing that way.”

A stel­lar se­quence that in­cluded Emma Rokosky dig­ging Lo­gan and Gold­berg deny­ing Dink­ins forced a North Al­legheny at­tack­ing er­ror. Then Rokosky hit her fourth ace to tie the fifth at 14.

Sa­man­tha Mann fol­lowed with a suc­cess­ful 71 as­sists block, negated by a dou­ble-touch off a Erin Car­mody serve to re­store par­ity at 15. A Pat­ter­son kill was pegged back by kills by Spry, and though Pat­ter­son mo­men­tar­ily stemmed the tide, Dink­ins beat back an at­tack at the net to fi­nally seal the win.

Clark stepped up with 12 kills, and Rokosky floated in and out of the game with nine kills (four in the first set), four aces and 13 digs. The sopho­more Mann held her own against Dink­ins in the mid­dle with eight kills and five blocks. But Pat­ter­son stood apart as the stead­i­est at­tack­ing pres­ence.

“She was amaz­ing. I can al­ways count on her,” Cain said of Pat­ter­son. “She dis­rupts ev­ery play. They think they have all this mo­men­tum and she comes through with an amaz­ing kill and they don’t know what to do.”

Pat­ter­son had four kills in each of the first two sets, land­ing the Tigers into a rare hole. North Al­legheny eked out a 3-2 win over Up­per St. Clair in their third match of the sea­son; in the 19 matches be­tween then and Tues­day, they dropped just two to­tal sets.

But the Tigers ral­lied. And when Gar­net Val­ley made it ob­vi­ous in the fifth that it wouldn’t go qui­etly, North Al­legheny stead­ied the ship.

“We just re­al­ized that we had to play calm and not get too hyped up in the mo­ment,” Dink­ins said. “We had to keep push­ing through and not play to their level but play on our side.”

The fifth-set bat­tle epit­o­mizes Gar­net Val­ley’s last two post­sea­sons, even if it didn’t end the same way as 2016’s cham­pi­onship jaunt. Both in­volved five-set­ters squeaked out, long bus rides on the West­ern fron­tier of PA and the fifth-seed sur­vival of District 1 play­backs.

That tough­ness for play­ers like Pat­ter­son, one of just three holdovers from a 2016 squad that grad­u­ated nine dec­o­rated se­niors, is per­haps why the tears were few and far be­tween Tues­day. And it’s also why North Al­legheny’s trip to its first state fi­nal wasn’t easy, even when the Tigers seemed to have ev­ery­thing go­ing for them.

“We didn’t give up,” Cain said. “We don’t give up no mat­ter what. If we started off stronger (in the fifth set), it def­i­nitely would’ve gone our way.”

“I’m just happy with how we fin­ished it out,” said Pat­ter­son, who will con­tinue her ca­reer at Kutz­town. “I had a lot of fun.”

PETE BANNAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Gar­net Val­ley’s Erin Pat­ter­son, right, here with team­mate Sam Mann in a match ear­lier this but the Jaguars fell in a clas­sic fifth set to North Al­legheny in the PIAA state semi­fi­nals. sea­son, had 22 kills Tues­day

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