SLIPPERY ROCK — There were times during Tuesday’s PIAA Class AA girls volleyball semifinal playoff that Mars seemed to have a firm grip on momentum.
But late in the match, the Planets were left searching for answers.
After falling behind two games to one, Fort LeBoeuf rolled to a double-digit win in the fourth game and dominated the Planets in the deciding game as Mars fell by scores of 25-19, 23-25, 25-12, 13-25 and 3-15 at Slippery Rock University’s Morrow Field House.
On their second possession of the fifth game, the Bison tallied five points to open up a 7-1 lead. Kills by Maria Peluso and Amanda Krolczyk aided the run.
Mars finally regained the serve, but gave it up immediately and Fort LeBoeuf reeled off three more points before Mars coach Dan Mountain called a timeout with his team down 11-2.
“We saw them play in the quarterfinals (Saturday) against Hopewell,” Mountain said of the Bison. “We were prepared for everything they are able to do, but they made some adjustments late and started to block us.”
The fifth game was uncharted territory for the Bison.
“We hadn’t gone five games since 2010,” said LeBoeuf coach LeAnn Byer. “Some of our players didn’t even know how many points a fifth game was played to until I told them earlier this season.
“I think the difference tonight was we had less unforced errors.”
After LeBoeuf lost the third game by 13 points, Byer had a message for her team.
“I told them that this is what they’ve been working for over the last six years and here’s your chance,” she said.
The Bison, the District 10 champions, responded by jumping out to a 15-6 lead and never letting Mars get any consistent play with the serve. That momentum would carry the team to victory and the program’s first trip to the state title match.
The Planets opened up a modest edge halfway through the first game and, though LeBoeuf kept it close, Mars received a late kill from Abby Matusik and blocks courtesy of Emily King and Kelsey Bruce to grab the early lead.
The Bison’s hard-fought win in the second game was followed by one of the teams dominating each of the last three games, decided by an average of 12 points.
“There’s no explanation for how drastic the scores were tonight,” said Mountain. “Both teams were, at times, fantastic.
“When things were going well for us, we were getting kills from multiple girls and the girls behind them were doing a good job of backing them up.”
Matusik led the Planets with 15 kills and Emily King had nine.
Peluso had a game-high 17 kills and Larissa Cass 11, including seven in the fourth game for the Bison.
The 2012 season was a historic one for the Planets (19-4).
“Even though the girls are sad now, they will realize that there’s no reason to be disappointed,” said Mountain. “They are the best girls volleyball team in the school’s history, won a WPIAL title and made the final four in the state. They should be proud of all they accomplished.”