Eagles head west for State opener

By on May 27, 2015

 

Cocalico’s John Waskowicz (33) and Dylan Sattazahn (40) return a shot during a recent match. (Photo by Denise Mitchell)

Cocalico’s John Waskowicz (33) and Dylan Sattazahn (40) return a shot during a recent match. (Photo by Denise Mitchell)

The Cocalico boys volleyball team faces a four-hour bus ride Wednesday. But who’s complaining?

Certainly not the Eagles, who will be making what is believed to be their first State Tournament appearance in program history Wednesday.

Cocalico (17-6), by virtue of its fourth-place finish in the District Three AA playoffs, will face District 7 champion Ambridge Wednesday (4 p.m.) at Norwin High School, located just outside of Pittsburgh.

The Eagles, who came within a win over qualifying for States a year ago, punched its ticket early last week with a 3-0 victory over Brandywine Heights in the District quarterfinals.

“It’s a great accomplishment for the team, no doubt,” Cocalico coach Dave Weaver said of reaching States. “It’s neat to be able to see them qualify for that level. We had that as one of our goals. We had it on our radar. We knew we could do it. It’s just that we needed to produce and make it happen and the kids did that.”

Admittedly, Weaver knows little of Ambridge, other than the fact that the Bridgers lost to District Three giant Northeastern in last year’s finals. The team is led by Derek Kuhn and outside hitter Anthony Baronio, the lone two regulars back from last year’s State runner-up squad.

This past week, Ambridge captured its fourth-straight WPIAL championship with a 3-1 victory over Obama Academy.

While the Eagles may be unfamiliar with their upcoming opponent, Weaver said that could be a good thing for his squad.

“Yeah, I think it is a benefit because we haven’t seen them and they haven’t seen us,” Weaver said. “I’m sure they don’t know anything about us. I think it’s a benefit to us not knowing what they are or who they have. We’ll just play to our strengths and make adjustments as we go.”

So far, that strategy has been pretty successful for Cocalico. The Eagles returned a veteran core of five returning seniors to the lineup this year in Mitch Stauffer, Matt Lauver, Garrett Strunk, Dylan Sattazahn and John Waskowicz.

They’ve also had several newcomers fill key roles and the end result was a Section Two title, a nice run in districts which ultimately earned them their State bid.

With the opportunity there, Weaver said he hopes his team can make the most of it.

“I think we have a good chance to make some noise,” he said. “I’d like to see us advance to possibly even the final round. We are going to be playing all teams that are new to us and we are new to them. If we would be fortunate enough to advance all the way we’d see Northeastern in the finals instead of the semifinals. That kind of puts us in an interesting spot.”

The road begins Wednesday. The winner from Wednesday’s match will advance to face the victor of the first round matchup between District 10 champion Saegerstown and Derry, the third-place team from District 7, in Saturday’s quarterfinals at a site and time to be determined.

The semifinals are set for next Tuesday with the finals to be held in Penn State’s Rec Hall on June 6.

Last Wednesday at Central York High School, Cocalico was ousted by eventual champion Northeastern, 3-0 in the semifinals of Districts.

Northeastern dominated the match from start to finish, winning by scores of 25-10, 25-6 and 25-15.

Reese Devilbiss served up nine key aces while Philip White had 13 kills and two digs and Matt Schaeffer added 25 assists to pace Northeastern.

For Cocalico, Sattazahn, Stauffer and John Waskowicz all had four kills apiece while Strunk added 14 assists on the night in the losing effort.

“Any loss is disappointing, but I told the kids I’ve never gone into a game assuming we would lose but they are very, very good,” Weaver said of Northeastern. “We knew that was going to be a challenge but we knew we had to play them at some point.”

With a State berth already secure, the Eagles squared off against Schuylkill Valley Friday in the third-place game held at Central York.

This one came down to a fifth game where Schuylkill Valley prevailed by a 15-6 margin to clinch a 3-2 victory and third place in the District.

Cocalico, which won Games One (27-25) and Four (25-17), got a combined 35 kills from Stauffer (18) and Sattazahn but it still wasn’t enough. Stauffer added six blocks while Strunk collected 47 assists for the Eagles in the loss.

Frank Melvin had 27 kills to pace Schuylkill Valley.

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