Deer Lakes rallies past Montour for final spot in PIAA Class AA tournament
After losing the first set, Deer Lakes started the second set strong and eventually earned the final PIAA Class AA volleyball berth with a 3-1 victory over Montour on Friday at Baldwin High School.
The Lancers (14-4) will play District 10 champion Saegertown at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in a PIAA tournament opening-round match at Meadville.
Montour, in the WPIAL playoffs for the 32nd straight season, finished 8-6.
Nothing seemed to be going right for Deer Lakes as the WPIAL consolation match began. Three Lancers serves hit the net, and Montour looked to be in control.
But in the second set, with sophomore Dan Hutchinson serving, Deer Lakes jumped to a 7-0 lead and gained valuable momentum.
“I think that we came out slow,” Lancers coach Zak Roberts said. “We came out still feeling a little down after from losing to Beaver County Christian (in the semifinals) and feeling a little of being afraid. When you’re afraid to make mistakes and errors, that’s when those things happen on the court.”
The penultimate point in the 25-18 second-set victory came by playing the ball off the basketball hoop near the ceiling.
“We scouted them real well. We kind of knew what they had,” Montour coach Mike Vavrek said. “Game 2 was a lot of us, a lot of our mistakes. We really didn’t get it back from that.”
Deer Lakes took a 4-0 lead in the third set and rolled to a 25-16 victory.
In a see-saw fourth set, Hutchinson and fellow sophomore Tyler Osselborn took over.
The Spartans cut the Lancers lead to 16-15. But Osselborn served the rest of the way, and Hutchinson recorded four kills as Deer Lakes closed it out 25-15.
“Tyler’s serves are very aggressive,” Roberts said. “He’s very consistent, and when he starts going, he doesn’t want to stop. If that serve is in bounds, he expects us to get that point, and if we don’t, he’s disappointed.”
Hutchinson finished with 18 kills, and Osselborn had 11.
“Dan played phenomenal, and he has been these last couple of matches,” Roberts said. “He’s been kind of a rock we can lean on when the team gets tired. I’m happy with how they played.”
“This game of volleyball is a crazy momentum game,” Vavrek said. “Sometimes all it takes is a big point here, a big point there. Their big run really put us out of it.”
Deer Lakes senior setter Josh Noble recorded 39 assists.
It is the second time in recent years that the Lancers have defeated Montour in the consolation game. They turned back the Spartans in 2012 after defeating Montour for the WPIAL title in ‘11.
George Guido is a freelance writer.