Our champions

Community hitches a ride on Lady Dragons’ trip to state championship

Times Observer photo by Andy Close The entire Warren Area High School volleyball team stands as one in the early morning on Sunday at Joseph A. Massa Gymnasium after arriving back from the PIAA Class 3A volleyball championship game against West York at Cumberland Valley High School with the silver trophy. Despite falling short against the Bulldogs, this team was the ultimate winner, capturing the hearts of the entire community. For complete coverage of the Lady Dragons’ second-place finish in Pennsylvania, see Page B-1.

The other day, I had to be reminded that volleyball is my thing.

I was at an assignment, totally unrelated to sports. The person I was interviewing asked if I was going to the state volleyball championship.

I said no.

He looked at me and said, incredulously, “But that’s your thing.”

I started to make whatever argument I had used with myself. But I couldn’t do it.

Times Observer photo by Brian Hagberg Warren Area High School volleyball teammates, from left, Jordan Sitler and Hannah Shattuck share smiles after returning home early Sunday morning to a community welcome in the gymnasium.

He was right. Thanks, Joe.

Watching volleyball is not my favorite part of volleyball, but it is part of it.

I don’t know what my previous longest ride/drive to watch volleyball was, but it was certainly less than four hours one-way.

Then again, I had never had the chance to see players I had played with and against in my hometown compete for a state volleyball championship.

Joe was right. I had to go.

Brian Ferry, News Reporter

I asked the sports department — Andy and Brian — if they had room for one more.

They did, and I hitched a ride.

I didn’t sleep as much as I expected, but it was an easy trip.

We got there early, found the media check-in, and watched the end of the Class AA final.

Warren fans were arriving before Bald Eagle Area finished off Holy Redeemer in three sets.

That made for a pretty long wait for our Class AAA final.

I took a picture of the crowd with 37 minutes left on the clock. Already, Warren fans had moved in and taken almost all of the best seats. I suppose that was an advantage of having a trip eight times as long as the opponent’s — we had to allow wiggle room in our travel. The West York folks could wait until there was an hour left until game time and still be very confident of an early arrival. Those fans did arrive and they were also there in good numbers. From where I was sitting, there was no meaningful difference in the volume of the fan bases, with one exception. Our student section was somewhat close to me, but they were significantly louder.

Warren’s warmup came first. I was reporting on it to some volleyball fans at home because the TV broadcast only includes the games.

Warren looked good. Nobody looked like they were overwhelmed by the enormity of their accomplishment. They were just playing volleyball again.

Then West York had its seven minutes. They looked good. Better, in fact.

But volleyball is a game you cannot judge on warmups.

Serving and serve-receive can make or break your game.

Warren established the middle — scoring the first point of the match on a bomb out of the middle — and worked out — traditional volleyball strategy that relies on success at receiving, setting, and hitting. In the games I watched this season, Warren showed that it has the capability to work middle-out. Warren has a complete game.

West York relied on its strongside hitters to do most of the damage, but the middles sprinkled in some highlight-reel hits — an easier way to go if you have the right skill set. They had the skills, but from what I saw of them, they didn’t need to go that easier route. Their receive and setting were very good and they had big hitters all over the place.

I guess I should not be surprised that the teams in the state final were good.

It would have been nice to come home with a win, but it was not to be.

As it is, we came home winners. Our team advanced to the very highest level of competition. Our players and fans showed good sportsmanship — extremely supportive, enthusiastic, positive, and humble through 21 victories — tournament titles (and even more travel tournament championships, if you’re counting those), and gracious in this one defeat.

Volleyball doesn’t have to be your thing to appreciate this team’s accomplishment. Our whole community came together to support this group of exceptional young women. A watch party in Youngsville reportedly drew 100 people for the championship on TV. Vehicles and vehicles and vehicles from fire departments in Cherry Grove, Sheffield, Clarendon, Glade, Pleasant, and Warren and police from Warren joined the welcoming parade back to Warren Area High School late Saturday.

Congratulations, Warren County.

Congratulations, Dragons.

Volleyball doesn’t have to end up being your thing

but thank you for letting us all hitch a ride.

Brian Ferry has been a staff writer and photographer with the Times Observer since 2006 and serious volleyball player/fan since 1990.