Despite slow start, 'Dogs top Cards 3-1

May 14—COCHRANTON — The Meadville boys volleyball team overcame a slow start and a resurgent Cochranton Cardinals in Monday's 3-1 (25-20, 27-25, 25-14, 25-11) region win at The Bird Cage.

The first set was back-and-forth until the Bulldogs pulled away late. Meadville freshman Max Decker capped off the set with a huge slam to push the 'Dogs up 1-0. Meadville led 16-9 in the second set before the Cardinals put their rally caps on.

Cochranton's Noah Cummings and Brady Rynd took turns tomahawking the ball into the Meadville defense. Combined with a handful of errors from the 'Dogs, and the Cards fought all the way to a tie at 24. A service error gave Meadville set-point and took the air out of the gym, only for the Bulldogs to have a service error of their own.

Rynd spiked the ball into the teeth of the 'Dogs defense before senior Fisher Dudzic capped off the comeback with one of his six kills.

With the match tied at 1 it was anyone's game, but Meadville controlled the match en route to a 3-1 win.

"Especially in sets one and two, it was pretty much point-for-point. Meadville had a couple servers in both those games that went on runs to give them a lead," Cochranton head coach Rob Cierniakoski. "Obviously we were able to chip away and come back and win set two. I really think the difference in the match was we worked hard to win that set, then Meadville struggled right into the next set and we didn't capitalize on it. We didn't hold on to that momentum and from there they were pretty much able to cruise."

Meadville head coach Nick Bancroft was happy with how his team responded after the second-set letdown, but was very disappointed in his team's effort in the opening sets.

"I thought we responded at the end, but I didn't like how we started. The first and second game, both of them. Even though we won the first game, we still came out flat and went through the motions," Bancroft said. "We came off a big high at the Shaler Tournament playing very well. Then we came in here and we didn't take care of ourselves. We're in the playoffs now and we have to be able to turn it on and be able to go.

"I actually had a flashback to the postseason last year. I felt that same vibe and we can't do that. We're too good of a team to come out flat."

Despite the Bulldogs early struggles, they took care of business in the third and fourth sets to come away with a win. A win that pushed the 'Dogs to an undefeated regular season record at 14-0, including an 11-0 region record.

Decker led the team with 18 kills and eight digs. Tymir Phillips and Parker Gosnell each had 10 kills. Jacob Graham led the defense with 12 digs and Jack Brown had 46 assists.

Meadville will be the No. 1 seed in the District 10 tournament and after last season's upset loss in the semifinal round, Bancroft wants his team to be dialed in.

"We can be beaten at anytime and we have got to lock in and be ready to go every single game. It doesn't matter who or where we're playing," Bancroft said. "We have to not rely on a couple people. We have to make plays as individuals and play better as a team."

For Cochranton, Dawson Carroll dished 50 assists while Cummings and Rynd added 17 and 16 kills, respectively. The Cardinals finished the regular season 9-5 overall and 8-3 in region action. The Cardinals are slated to be the third seed in the D-10 tournament.

"I think we're a dangerous team. We have a few losses there to Saegertown, McDowell, Meadville, but we have quality guys at each position," Cierniakoski said. "I think if we could figure it out right here in the stretch then were a dangerous team for anyone to face against."

Alex Topor can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at