TIOGA — Heading into the Tuesday, Nov. 3 volleyball District Playoff matchup between the third seeded Galeton Lady Tigers (13-7) and the second seeded Northeast Bradford Lady Panthers (12-3) the Galeton girls were viewed as underdogs heading in, but nobody told them that.
The Lady Tigers not only beat the Lady Panthers, but dominated the matchup in a 3-1 set score pulling off an impressive upset in their first game against a Bradford County team this season.
“This group of girls is an amazing group of girls,” Head Coach Jess Green said. “They work extremely well together, they have confidence in each other and they are a well-oiled machine when we are on. And when we are on, we can be unstoppable.”
And needless to say on Tuesday night, the Lady Tigers were ‘on’ during the win.
In the first set, the Lady Tiger flexed their muscles behind the impressive play of senior Alexis Johnson, who showed early and often that she would be the most dominant player at the net in the contest.
Johnson recorded two blocks in the opening set as the Galeton girls started running up the score to 10-1 seemingly taking the NEB team by surprise.
The Lady Panthers were able to make two solid runs, but everytime they started to string things together the Galeton girls would respond almost immediately.
“I played travel ball which really boosted my confidence,” Johnson commented on how she has progressed into a premier player for the Lady Tigers. “Playing with older girls really made me better as a player.”
Her growth was in full display on Tuesday night, as Johnson did a little bit of everything tallying eight kills, four blocks, one assist, eight digs and three aces showing off herr versatile game.
They held the Lady Panthers late runs off for a 25-18 win in the first set, and at this point clearly looked like the better team.
But the 12-win Lady Panthers refused to go down without a fight, and used an early surge to build a 17-8 lead in the second set.
Galeton rallied with a few nice plays by Johnson and Alli Macensky, but the Northeast girls were able to hold on and tie things up at one set apiece with a score of 25-20.
With the set-score tied at one, Galeton started to hit their stride. They took an early lead and never looked back with Makenna Shuemaker making some amazing plays that stifled some small runs made by the NEB.
Galeton finished the set off with Macensky taking over in the final points to cruise to a 25-17.
With only one set left, you could feel the desperation from the Northeast Bradford sideline start to boil over, and both teams battled back-and-forth in the fourth set with neither team gaining more than a three-point advantage at any point.
After the Lady Panthers took a 21-19 lead late, Galeton surged to the end. A 6-1 run pushed Galeton over the top and a key play made by Johnson late to take the lead at 23-22 proved to be the swinging point of momentum in the contest, with Galeton coming out victorious and moving forward to the District Finals.
The Lady Tigers were solid all over the court, with their three-headed monster of Macensky, Schuemaker and Johnson all playing big roles in the win.
Shuemaker was fantastic defensively with 18 digs on the night to go with her eight assists and two aces. Macensky also added seven kills and was instrumental for the Lady Tigers dominance at the net with three blocks.
But even with their three top players stepping up in a big way, the rest of the team proved that they are a solid and deep team that gets production from the whole floor.
Tressa Succowich added 24 digs, Olivia Rohrbaugh added 28 digs, Mikayla Scott had a team-high 34 digs and Lauren Sauley also added 10 assists and 20 digs.
With coming up short last season, and the circumstances of this fall sports season, the Galeton girls were extremely pleased with their effort and the outcome of their first playoff game of the season.
“It means everything to us, it’s the whole point of the season,” Green said on advancing to the District Finals.
“It’s awesome,” Johnson said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more, this is amazing.”
Heading into their District Final matchup, both Johnson and Green agreed that if they are going to finish off their Cinderella-run for a District Title, that communication on the court will be the one point of improvement moving forward.
The Lady Tigers will take on the Canton Lady Warriors (14-2) in a clash for the District Title on Thursday, Nov. 5 at 4:30 p.m. in Tioga.