EAST CARNEGIE – Brenna Campbell and her teammates locked arms before she lived out here lived out her 17-year dream of falling down Tuesday night at Bishop Canevin High School.
The Clarion Area senior setter locked arms before falling awkward to the floor along with her teammates in the first of what Campbell hopes are two raucous celebrations. The Bobcats earned the first one by beating Bishop Canevin 25-14, 25-15, 25-14 in a PIAA Class A semifinal to send Clarion back to the state championship match for the first time since 2012.
“I’ve been in the gym for 17 years and I always wanted it to be super special,” said Campbell, who handed out 32 assists. “I know they wanted it to be super special for me. They were like ‘Ok, let’s do a dog pile because we want it to be so special.’ This was a once in a lifetime chance thing.’”
That year, the Bobcats capped the season with their first state title. Clariion will look for a second championship when it plays District 3 champion Marian Catholic Saturday at Cumberland Valley High School.
Clarion (23-0) never let WPIAL champion Bishop Canevin in the match. The Lady Crusaders (17-2) only recorded three kills in the first set, while the Bobcats’ offense was humming.
Korrin Buns and Erica Selfridge, who tied for a match-high 16 kills, set the tone by knocking down kills for the first two points of the match.
“First of all, we have very high jumpers,” Campbell said. “My pins, my two outsides and right-side jump super high and already reach above a lot of the block.”
The Bobcats never trailed in the first set and made it difficult for Bishop Canevin to hit.
The Crusaders scored 10 — seven attack and three service — of their first-set point on Clarion errors.
Bishop Canevin assist coach Danelle Wagner said the Crusaders gave Clarion too many free balls. Wagner, along with fellow assistant coach Angela Wyman, took over coaching duties after head coach Kevin Walters died before the WPIAL championship match.
“We needed to put pressure and a lot of times they would give them a free ball and they would swing a big ball back at us,” Wagner said. “We made intimidating choices at moments when we should have gone aggressive. We haven’t played that way all year and it’s not how you win a championship.”
Clarion trailed early in the second set before Selfridge opened things up. She recorded three straight kills to put the Bobcats ahead 10-7. It was part of a 4-0 run that put Clarion ahead for good.
“We’ve been passing really well,” Bobcats coach Shari Campbell. “We tried to take advantage of those free balls. We demand location in our passing, so when we get a freeball we expect that ball to go to Brenna.”
Clarion broke up the final set with an 8-0 run that stretched its lead to 17-7. The Bobcats were able to close the show from there with a solid attack.
The top-ranked team in the state never wilted.
“Every year there is pressure on us to do great and go to the state tournament,” Brenna Campbell said. “This year, it doesn’t feel like pressure. This team deals really well with handling pressure. Nowhere through the year did it feel like we have to do this or we have to win this game.”