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Column: Recent championship volleyball teams to play in new classes

Feb. 3—Three area volleyball teams that have seen quite a bit of recent success will play in a new classification this fall.

District 10 approved the regions for the 2024-25 and 2025-26 cycle at a meeting on Wednesday. With the approval, Cochranton, Conneaut and Saegertown will each play in a different classification from last cycle.

The Conneaut girls volleyball program, winners of four straight District 10 titles in Class 3A from 2019-2022, will play in Class 2A.

Conneaut will play in Region 2 with Cochranton as the only Class 2A teams. Also in the region is Class 1A Cambridge Springs, Maplewood, Saegertown, Eisenhower, Erie First, Youngsville and Tidioute Charter.

"When the news broke, our initial reaction was one of excitement, as the shift will continue to provide outstanding competitive opportunities for the CASH volleyball student-athletes. We know these opportunities will not only challenge our student-athletes individually, but it will also allow for our program to experience growth and fortification as a whole," Conneaut head coach Christine Krankota said. "Scaling back on travel time is certainly a positive, as well."

Saegertown moves back to the Crawford County region and Class 1A after the last cycle. In 2022-23 and 2023-24, the Panthers played in Region 3 with a majority of teams from Mercer County. The Panthers were 10 students above the 1A threshold in 2022 but now they are about 13 below.

Saegertown head coach Justyn Greco enjoyed the competition in 2A, but is excited to return to 1A. The Panthers have won the Region 3 titles the last two seasons and went 20-0 in region matches.

"I am not disappointed to be 1A, but I did really like competing in Region 3 as a AA school. I had not met most of those coaches prior to playing against them, and I made a lot of great connections with them. They are wonderful people," Greco said. "I would like to continue to play some of those schools, as well as some of the other AA schools that we've played the past few years as non-region opponents once I know what our region schedule looks like."

The 1A postseason tournament should be interesting with Cambridge Springs, Maplewood and Saegertown as the likely favorites. Saegertown advanced to the district semifinals in the 2A tournament the last two seasons. The Panthers lost both to eventual District 10 champions Corry and North East, respectfully. Maplewood has won the last two District 10 Class 1A championships.

Saegertown's return to Region 2 will also allow local rivalries to pick back up.

"Having not played Cochranton, Cambridge, Maplewood or Conneaut in the last couple of years except for at tournaments, I'm sure there will be some renewed rivalries," Greco said. "There is a lot more familiarity among the coaches and players in this new region. Most of us have our teams play each other in the offseason, coach each others players during club season, and many of our players play against each other in other sports."

Cochranton is sticking around in Region 2, but playing in Class 2A will make for a much different postseason.

The Cardinals have played in the last three District 10 Class 1A championship matches. The road to a title berth will look different the next two years. Standing in the way will likely be North East, Corry, Mercyhurst Prep, Cathedral Prep and Conneaut.

"I think that it's definitely going to be different for us," Cochranton head coach Leirin Schmader said. "It's fun to go play new teams and be challenged in that way. They will rise to the occasion."

Conneaut will also have a challenging schedule in the playoffs.

"There is going to be a tremendous amount of talent showcased in the postseason tournament that will make for some fun, tenacious and highly competitive volleyball," Krankota said. "We have obviously competed against many AA teams in non-region or in-season tournament play, and those contests already had a spirited, intense edge about them, so it will be a blast squaring off with those teams when the stakes are even higher."

Before the playoffs, though, each team will face each other in pursuit of a Region 2 title. Maplewood and Cochranton shared the title last season. Saegertown and Conneaut will certainly make a push for it in what should be a very exciting slate of volleyball matches the next two years.

"We like that part of it. It's going back almost to the old FCVC style with these teams," Schmader said. "Being that our region is bigger now with nine teams, playing each other once puts a little more pressure on each match. Being able to build the schedule and add to it to get a different look will be fun."

"We look forward to forging and amplifying new relationships and rivalries through this realignment," Krankota added. "Almost every night we will be matching up against a program that has a track record of consistent excellence, so there will be no shortage of learning opportunities and chances to grow and improve throughout the course of the season, which should make for one dynamite battle for the top spot in the region."

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Girls Volleyball

Region 1 — 1A

Commodore Perry 1A (57)

Jamestown 1A (47)

Kennedy Catholic 1A (30)

Farrell 1A (69)

Rocky Grove 1A (108)

West Middlesex 1A (95)

Lakeview 1A (99)

Wilmington 1A (126)

Reynolds 1A (120)

Region 2 — 1A, 2A

Cambridge Springs 1A (96)

Eisenhower 1A (112)

Youngsville 1A (84)

Erie First 1A (17)

Tidioute Charter 1A (45)

Saegertown 1A (113)

Cochranton 2A (135)

Conneaut 2A (239)

Region 3 — 2A, 3A

Sharon 2A (245)

Greenville 2A (169)

Mercer 2A (132)

Sharpsville 2A (128)

Oil City 2A (240)

Franklin 2A (231)

Hickory 2A (217)

Grove City 2A (223)

Slippery Rock 3A (270)

Titusville 3A (267)

Region 4 — 2A

Corry 2A (228)

Union City 2A (127)

Fairview 2A (224)

Girard 2A (180)

Northwestern 2A (180)

North East 2A (207)

Mercyhurst Prep 2A (165)

Seneca 2A (154)

Cathedral Prep 2A (238)

Iroquois 2A (133)

Region 5 — 3A, 4A

Meadville 3A (306)

Warren 3A (284)

General McLane 3A (261)

Harbor Creek 3A (277)

Fort LeBoeuf 3A (275)

McDowell 4A (829)

Erie 4A (1,652)

Enrollment ranges

1A: 1-126

2A: 127-246

3A: 247-438

4A: 439 and above

Alex Topor can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at atopor@meadvilletribune.com.