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Tigers go five, fall to Paden City

MORRISTOWN — With a fourth straight OVAC Class 1-A title on the line, Paden City found itself in a pickle — down 2-0 and facing elimination in Saturday’s championship at Union Local.

However, with an experienced group fresh off a state runner-up season in 2019, Wildcats’ coach Jennifer Yeater and her team showed no panic.

Instead, Paden City dug deep and reeled off three straight wins to stun Wellsville in a five-set thriller with scores of 18-25, 23-25, 25-23, 25-23 and 15-10 to earn its fourth consecutive OVAC crown.

Wellsville ends the regular season 17-5 having dropped its last two matches in five sets. The Tigers will host Springfield-Southington winner on Thursday in a Div. IV sectional opener.

Emma Smith paced the Tigers with 22 kills and four blocks, while Alana Amato tallied 10 kills plus four blocks and Emily McNicol and Greta Cartwright each dished out 23 assists. Meaghan Nixon had four kills and a block. Aubri Ramsey had two kills and 19 digs. Jenna McNicol had 23 digs.

“It’s pretty awesome. We had to dig deep,” Yeater said. “We kind of got in that first and second set slump and it was ‘hey, we have to find the heart and hustle.’

“Last year in the sectional we were down two sets so I said ‘we’ve been here before. We know how to fight back. Just take it one point at a time.'”

That’s just what they did.

In the third set, the Wildcats trailed 15-11 and 23-21 and, with their backs against the wall, pulled out a miraculous comeback with the final four points of the set to send the match to a fourth set.

“It was all heart, hustle, energy and effort,” Yeater said. “We had to minimize mistakes and maximize our effort and that is really what we go by.

“When we get sloppy, we have to pull it back in and play our game. We’ve worked hard. We got here on a forfeit, too, so we also wanted to prove that we were the No. 1 seed for a reason. We had to prove why we were here.”

After pulling out a back-and-forth fourth set and pulling even with Wellsville in the fifth and decisive set, Paden City turned up the heat and thanks to massive hits from Madison Kline and senior Mallory Yeater, along with a clutch block by Brandis Dalrymple, the Wildcats went on a 6-1 run to end the contest.

It was only fitting that all-state senior duo Hope Weber and Mallory Yeater were involved on the final play as Weber set up Yeater for the game-ending kill.

“Our seniors wanted it really bad,” Coach Yeater said. “This isn’t their first rodeo. This is Mallory’s and Hope’s fourth year starting and they each have contributed to the success of the program. They are a good pair and they feed off of each other. It added another element of bringing Hope in as a setter a couple of years ago because they work well together. So, it was great for Mallory to set up Hope and then Hope turn around and set up Mallory.”

This is now the 10th OVAC title for Paden City’s volleyball program, which improves to 19-1 this season and is without a loss since Sept. 19.

“I want to give mad props to Wellsville,” Coach Yeater said. “They gave us a fight but we weren’t going down without a fight. It was just a great afternoon of volleyball.”

Weber turned in 27 kills, 12 assists, six points and seven digs, while Mallory Yeater supplied 17 kills, 26 assists, seven points and five digs.

McKenzie Thomas collected 20 digs and seven points, Dalrymple delivered 10 kills, Tanley McEldowney provided 11 points and eight digs, Kline garnered seven points and seniors Maggi Still and Kelsey Michael added eight points and seven digs, respectively.

“Our seniors (Still, Michael, Weber and Yeater) have done a really good job with their leadership and stepping up,” Coach Yeater said.

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