Serra Catholic defeats Bishop Canevin to capture school’s 1st WPIAL volleyball title

Saturday, November 4, 2023 | 2:28 PM

For the Serra Catholic volleyball team, the wait for the program’s first WPIAL title was totally worth it.

After losing in the finals to Frazier last year, the top-seeded Eagles showed their poise on the court Saturday afternoon in the WPIAL Class A championship match at Peters Township High School’s AHN Arena, defeating No. 3 Bishop Canevin, 3-1, to bring home the program’s first district title.

“It means everything to us to win a WPIAL title,” Serra Catholic junior Cassidy Trahan said. “We have been working for this since we were little kids. This group stuck together and this is a special group of girls.”

The WPIAL title is the 13th team championship for the school and the first girls title since the 2005 basketball team won one.

“We just had to keep it simple,” Serra coach Keith Trahan said. “I know this is a big environment with a lot of emotions, but volleyball is still about digging, passing and hitting. This group has been together for years and our core seniors led us today. Bishop Canevin wasn’t going to give up, but we just dug deep.”

Set scores were 25-23, 18-25, 25-21 and 30-28. The Eagles (20-0) will now play Cochranton, the District 10 runner-up, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs Tuesday with a site and time TBA.

The Crusaders (19-2), who were looking for their eighth overall WPIAL title and sixth in seven years, will now play Berlin, the District 5 champion, to begin the state postseason.

“It was a matchup between two good volleyball teams,” Bishop Canevin coach Angela Wyman said. “It came down to which team would make more mistakes. Unfortunately, we made the mistakes. Serra played very well today and they took advantage of our miscues. Now, we get ready for states.”

The teams battled through several ties in the early stages of the fourth set until the Eagles went up 12-7 after a series of kills by Bri Battles, Maria Goldstein and Cassidy Trahan. The Crusaders bounced back with a spree and took a 17-16 lead after a hitting error.

The Eagles regrouped from the one-point deficit and compiled a 7-2 rally after taking advantage of a couple of hitting errors and net violations by the Crusaders. Serra was at set point 24-20, but Bishop Canevin scored the next four points to extend the set.

After the squads continued to trade points, Bishop Canevin was at set point, 28-27, after a kill by Ella Whalen, but Serra put together one last run and scored the final three points to pull out the victory courtesy of a hitting error by Bishop Canevin and back-to-back kills by Cassidy Trahan.

Due to an ankle injury sustained by senior Olivia Hussein, Cassidy Trahan was moved from her normal libero position to outside hitter. The junior was effective all contest, racking up 13 kills.

“We just played for each other,” Cassidy Trahan said. “When Olivia got injured, I knew that was one of the game plans we might use with me switching to outside. I did not know that I was officially in as a hitter until right before the game started. I was nervous, but I knew I had to step up for my team.”

“Olivia came down strong on her ankle in practice two days ago,” coach Trahan said. “It was a freak thing. She was a game-time decision and I know she wanted to play. But Cassidy stepped up today. She has hit a couple of times this season, but I thought she was at her best today. We had a lot of our hitters make plays today and we were solid on defense.”

Serra was the aggressor out of the gates, going up 3-0 after a kill by Goldstein. Bishop Canevin quickly regrouped with a 6-3 spree to tie things up.

The teams exchanged the next series of points as neither squad could get any sustained separation. The Crusaders carried a 15-13 lead and forced the Eagles to call their first timeout.

After the timeout, Serra rallied with an 8-3 spurt to take a 21-18 lead after a service point by Emerson Trahan and a hitting error by Bishop Canevin. The Eagles got to 24-22 after a kill by Goldstein and then were able to walk away with the opening set after a hit by the Crusaders went out of bounds.

“We had to win that opening set and play with some momentum,” said Goldstein, who had five of her 12 kills in the first set. “I just came out swinging and a couple of my kills dropped. It feels freaking great to win this title. Last game wasn’t my best, and I just knew I had to pick up the slack.”

Bishop Canevin tallied the opening five points of the second set. The Crusaders built a 14-7 advantage after a kill by Emmie Maziarz, but the Eagles countered with five unanswered points.

Serra trimmed the deficit to 19-17 after a kill by Battles, but Bishop Canevin rebounded and even things up with a 6-1 spree to end the set. Amari Elliott had a pair of kills in the late rally, while Whalen had the set-winning block after a long volley.

The Eagles were able to break away from a 3-2 deficit early in the third set and turned it into an 8-4 lead. Serra was up 15-10 after a couple of hitting errors by Bishop Canevin. A kill by Cassidy Trahan made it 16-11, but the Crusaders rallied back with four consecutive points.

“We have a diverse offense and we can fling the ball around with anybody,” coach Trahan said. “We tried to keep them guessing and mixed things up with our offense. We had a good read on their primary hitters, but you still have to stop them. It was back and forth, but our experience carried us.”

The set was tied at 20-20 after a kill by Whalen, but two hitting errors by Bishop Canevin gave Serra a 22-20 edge and forced the Crusaders to call a timeout. The Eagles responded with three of the final four points, courtesy of an ace by Caitlyn Cooley and a pair of kills by Cassidy Trahan for a 25-21 win.

Emerson Trahan was a vital part of the offense for Serra, as the senior setter collected 27 assists with 12 digs and 11 service points.

“We wanted to win this for our dad,” Emerson Trahan said. “Last year was tough to lose in the finals. To make it that far and to not play at our best in the finals was tough. It was tough to talk about it with him. But that just added motivation for us this season and I am so proud of our team.”

Battles finished with eight kills and four blocks for the Eagles, while Cooley ended her day with 13 digs and 10 service points. Cate Clark garnered six kills and Riley Kostandinu stepped in as Serra’s libero with 16 digs. Whalen (11 kills) and Elliott (nine kills) led the Crusaders’ offense, while Ayla Altman had 19 digs.

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