Hazleton Area’s Megan Miller hits the ball over the net as Delaware Valley’s Emily Dorko, left, and Samantha Morgan, right, try to block it.FOR TIMES LEADER/JONATHAN J. JUKA
PLYMOUTH — Hazleton Area had Delaware Valley on the ropes in Wednesday night’s District 2 Class 3A title match. But in the end, the Warriors displayed the heart of a champion – rallying from a 2-0 deficit to edge the Cougars, 3-2, in a pulsating battle of heavyweights.
“We never gave up,” said Delaware Valley sophomore middle hitter Emily Dorko, who played a key role in the Warriors’ comeback. “When we were down 2-0, I just started screaming as loud as I could to get everyone pumped up.”
Apparently, Dorko’s screams pumped new life into her team. Delaware Valley put it all together in the final three games to capture the match by scores of 19-25, 20-25, 25-16, 25-20, 13-8 at Wyoming Valley West High School. The Warriors (16-3) will take on the No. 3 seed from District 1 in the opening round of the state playoffs on Tuesday at Pittston Area High School.
Delaware Valley’s victory gives the Wyoming Valley Conference teams a chance to win three district titles. Bishop O’Reilly faces Blue Ridge in tonight’s A final. Bishop Hoban and Crestwood will square off for the 2A title in the second match at Hanover Area.
“I pumped myself up,” said Dorko, a 5-foot-8 sophomore jumping jack, who had three critical blocks late in the match that helped propel Delaware Valley to victory. “That makes me jump high. Every time I get a touch, it slows the ball down for our back row players.”
Dorko got plenty of help. Senior outside hitter Sam Morgan had 10 kills and 28 service points; senior setter Taylor Crawford had 30 assists, three kills and 14 service points; and sophomore sensation Christine Marks blasted 10 kills, including several clutch hits in the late going.
“Once I started getting my hits, I really felt comfortable,” said the 5-10 Marks. “I kept thinking that I just have to hit the holes.”
Hazleton Area threatened to turn the match into a blowout by dominating the first two games behind the hitting of Kristin Kondash and the setting of Sara Polchin. However, the Cougars weren’t able to deliver the knockout punch.
Delaware Valley took a 15-13 lead in game 3 on a block by Dorko, and took control at 20-14 on two straight aces by Rebekah Battersby.
The Warriors shot out to a 10-2 lead in game 4. Hazleton rallied to draw even at 20-20, but Delaware Valley rode Marks’ hitting to a 25-20 win. Delaware Valley led from the outset in game 5, and opened an insurmountable 14-8 lead on a Morgan slam.
“I think we came out a little overconfident, because we beat them before (in regular season play),” Morgan said. “They gave us a challenge by winning the first two games, but we made the proper adjustments and really stepped it up.”
It was a heartbreaking loss for the Cougars, who seemed to lose their composure when the Warriors came storming back.
“We dominated the first two games, but then we started making some unforced errors,” said Kondash, who led Hazleton Area with 11 kills and two aces. “They got the edge in game 5 by getting the early lead. Once you get the jump in game 5, you have the advantage because you only play to 15.”
Polchin, who had 18 assists for the Cougars, said Delaware Valley kept its cool after falling into a deep hole. “They’re a good team. When they made their run, we just couldn’t collect ourselves.”