(From July 14) UNIVERSITY PARK — The Meadville volleyball team’s quest for another state championship came to an end in the tournament’s finals on Saturday.
The Bulldogs returned home as they were the PIAA Class 2A second-place finisher after losing to the Lower Dauphin 3-1 (27-25 25-18, 25-18, 17, 25-21, 25-21) in Penn State’s Rec Hall.
The Dogs held a lead of 24-21 going into the opening game. The Falcons took the first set after a string of mistakes and perfectly-timed Lower Dauphin spikes.
The result wasn’t what Meadville (20-1) would have liked. This year, the squad claimed the first state championship for the school in its 55-year history and was hoping to repeat as champions. However, the head coach Nick Bancroft and the Bulldogs are very proud of their achievements.
“I believe we’re all blessed for being here. Unfortunately, it happened in the way it did, since we came here hoping to win another title,” senior Charlie Waid declared. “Nevertheless, we shouldn’t be apathetic about this. I’m not sure of the number of times Meadville has gone to win a state championship, but it’s certainly not many. The fact that most of us were part of two is quite cool. Despite the loss, it’s nonetheless a blessing being here.”
Bancroft shared the sentiments of Waid.
“It’s fantastic and a huge moment to be back. We’ve been preaching on how to be grateful for this moment because it’s not an easy destination to reach,” Bancroft said. “It’s an awful loss, but we shouldn’t afford to take it for granted that we will make the finals at the state level.”
Meadville was a bit slow to start the match, as they lost by 2-0 against Lower Dauphin (21-2).
“We were slow to start, and I was not finding my groove. This was one of the games when it didn’t click immediately, and they’re an excellent defense team,” Waid said. “They were digging up several balls that I hit, which made it tough, not just for me but for everyone else. It took me a while to find a rhythm, but the ball was in danger by the moment.”
Both teams traded points before Meadville began the offensive in the opening set to take advantage of 24-21. The Falcons came back to win their first game.
“That first set was one we let slip as well as game 1 was an important factor in the conclusion of the match,” Bancroft said. “We had some errors at inopportune times.”
Lower Dauphin utilized the momentum of the opening set to win the second set 25-18. The game was in limbo at 11-11, and the Falcons were on an 11-7 run to finish the set.
The senior outside player Kaden Kirchhoefer was an obstacle for the side of the Dogs during the opening two sets. He had 21 kills during the match.
“We tried to keep away from him. No matter where he went, we would call the police and try to find the right position to obtain the block,” Caden Mealy said. “We got ourselves into an opening in the beginning and tried to escape, but it got too much, and we were unable to.”
After being eliminated in the 3rd set, Meadville tried to get back on track. They took a lead of 11-5 and were adamant on their offensive.
A Falcon service error earned the ‘Dogs a set 25-17 three-win.
“What did change was the mood,” Mealy said. “After playing in the next game, the coach was able to hype us up. We all gathered together and went out on the field and did our best since we knew this was the game we were going to win.”
In the 4th set, Meadville played hard all game. Both teams were tied at 20-20 before Lower Dauphin closed out.
“In the 3rd set, I told the team, ‘We need to restore the energy. There was some disappointment; however, during the 4th set, I told the team, ‘We need to restart and be ready to show off the emotion,'” Lower Dauphin coach David Machamer said.
Three consecutive, massive Falcon slams were the final Meadville game of the season.
“They played some fantastic volleyball. We made some mistakes you wouldn’t typically make,” Waid said. “I don’t know if that was nerves or what happened, but the fact is that it was not our best game. The problem was that it was the final fixture of the campaign. However, those things do occur.”
Waid completed the game by registering ten kills. Jackson Decker led the game with 23 kills, and Julian Jones added 14. Mealy was able to dish 46 assists.
On defense, Decker led the team with 15 digs. Jones, as well as Bryce Smith each, had nine. Cameron Schleicher and Braden Bosco both had four and five blocks, respectively.
“It’s the exact opposite of what we had in mind at the end of the day. However, I wouldn’t trade one of them for any other player,” Bancroft said. “We were successful again because of the hard put in.”
(From March 8) ERIE — The Meadville Bulldogs collected plenty of equipment in the District 10 AAA championship in swimming on Saturday.
Josh Merchbaker put into his collection of gold medals. Freshman girls led relay teams to triumph. Four girls and four boys won events, and several record-breaking records were set through the Bulldogs on the weekend in the Hagerty Family Events Center in Erie.
The day started with a bang, especially in the girls’ 200 Medley relay. Students from freshman Brielle Cheney Maura Bloss and JJ Gowetski team up together with sophomore Olivia Philbrick to win the event and break the school record. Their time of 1:49.34 beat the record of the school (1:49:90) that was established in 1987. It also beat the record for the track set by McDowell in 2009 and again in 2019.
The next event was the boy’s 200-meter medley relay that Meadville also won to sweep the competition. Braden Bosco Isaac Johnson, Gabe Cummings, and Merchbaker won first place at 1:38:06. Their time was enough to set a new school record. Two events later, Meadville was 2/2 for gold medals and school records.
“I am pretty content about my split in the medley relay. I’m sure with all the things going on this year, and it was a big influence on me. However, I was pretty good,” Bosco said. “Overall, I’m very happy that we’ll be going to the state championships. We’re hoping to break the school record we broke today and hopefully beat it.”
Another Bulldog to take home the gold medal came from Bloss, who won the 50-freestyle in 24.61. This was her second gold in the meet.
“Maura is in ninth grade, and she has her sights set on the record for the meet, which has a record of 24.17,” Meadville head coach Pete Cappelli said. “She’s has a couple of years to reach this. The record for our high school for high school is 24.38 as well. She’s quicker than that at her YMCA events over the years.”
The next race was the 50-meter freestyle for boys. Merchbaker set the pace with his speedy 20.71 sprint time, sufficient for the meet and pool records. His time was faster than his predecessor Meadville athlete Tim Whitbeck’s meet record of 2005.
Merchbaker returned to the track for the 100 butterflies just 15 minutes after he had competed for the 50 freestyle. Despite the fast turnaround time, Merchbaker won the race and set a new pool record by winning with 50.90.
“I was extremely pleased with my free 50. The 100 fly I did was not an ideal one. However, it was just after the 50, and that’s the reason,” Merchbaker said. “Right right now, I believe I’m the second-best time for 50 times in the state, so I’d like to be a top contender at the state meet…
“It was satisfying to have won those gold medals. I was a bit worried, as Warren is a very good freshman year this year, and I was worried about him being able to catch myself in 100 meters since I was dead at the end there. I was nervous about doing it back-to-back since it’s a challenge, and I know that’s something I’m able to medal at the state level, so I decided to go for it today.”
The Bulldogs kept their place at the top of the 200-freestyle girls’ relay. Bloss Gowetski and Gowetski and Jaidyn Jordan and freshman Philbrick finished the race in 1:38.75, a record for high school.
The two athletes who advanced to state competitions included Gowetski and Philbrick for the freestyle 100 and the 100 backstrokes, respectively.
“JJ is in ninth grade and was extremely close to the record for the meet held by a Meadville girl. She could drop a couple of seconds at the state level and break our records,” Cappelli said. “Olivia broke the record for the meet last year, so we’re looking forward to a top time from her at state.”
Gowetski won freestyle at 52.88, while Philbrick took the backstroke at 57.28.
“I achieved my goals in time for relays. However, I was hoping that my backstroke would be a bit quicker. I’m happy with my time,” Philbrick said. “My aim in the State Meet is to finish in the top. I don’t care about 8th or not, I want to be there.”
“I did not quite meet my goals for time, but I did want to finish first and be a; I to qualify for state competition, so I’m quite happy,” Gowetski added. “It’s extremely difficult once you’re at AAA states because of the number of large schools, and it’s difficult to be able to qualify. I’m hoping to make it to the right school and get some great times.”
The final event of this day’s competition for The Bulldogs included the girls’ 400 freestyle relay. Again, the team consisting of Bloss, Gowetski, Jordan, and Philbrick took the gold medal home. They ran the time of 3:38:10, which is just 0.02 off of the school’s longstanding record set in 1977.
On the side for girls, Bloss, Gowetski, Jordan, Philbrick, and Cheney will make it towards the national meet. Bloss Gowetski, Philbrick, and Gowetski took home four gold medals on the day. Jordan won two golds, while Cheney completed the podium with one.
As an entire group, McDowell’s girls finished third with 218 points. McDowell took the title with 414 points.
“Those relays were based entirely on the split of Brielle’s breaststroke. Jaiden’s split was also great,” Cappelli said. “They might be under the radar for individual races, but they truly did their best for the team. The team is safe because of the girls. The relay teams of all teams will be back next year.”
The team finished second with 221 points on the boys’ side, just behind McDowell’s 398 points.
Merchbaker has won two gold medals during the event. He won the third gold medal in the 200-medley relay and Bosco, Johnson, and Cummings.
“Sadly, we will lose Josh next year, as Josh will be heading off to a college of his choice,” Cappelli said. “I believed he would be a star today, and I was. Anyone who bets against him could lose their money, especially when he knows you bet against him. He will step up when he needs to.”
The District 10 diving contest was held on Saturday, February. 27 Charlie Minor was the only AAA boy competing in the competition. Minor was the winner with scoring of 297.95 and could advance to the finals at the state level.
9 Bulldogs divers and swimmers will be advancing to the state competition in Cumberland High school on March 20.