Bethlehem Catholic wins states
Bethlehem Catholic's victory over Fort LeBoeuf in the PIAA Class AA volleyball championship match was, in a number of ways, a fitting end to the tournament for the Golden Hawks.
In advancing to the final, Bethlehem Catholic had gone four sets in its first three matches of the tournament.
This past Saturday, it took the Golden Hawks five sets to overcome a 2-1 deficit to claim the program's first state championship with a 20-25, 25-17, 23-25, 25-12, 15-8 triumph over the Bison.
"Going to five (sets) makes it even more satisfying," said Bethlehem Catholic coach Paul Abi-Daher. "Winning it in three would have been great, but it's an even greater feeling when you do it like this. I think it tells you more about our character because we had to come back to win."
Trailing 24-23 in the third set, Becahi was dealt a blow when Abi-Daher was dealt a red card that gave Fort LeBoeuf the set and a 2-1 advantage.
But the moment seemed to galvanize the Golden Hawks (23-2), not deflate them.
"Here's how we look at it: If one person is down, we all have to pick that person up," Abi-Daher said. "That's what champions are made of. They rally around each other.
"Not two or three individuals win a game. It's the entire program. It takes the bench, the coaches and all those on the court to win a championship. And that's what we did. When we were down and out, everyone started picking it up. I'm blessed that we're here and we're winning."
The players responded with their two most dominant sets of the match, never letting the Bison (20-1) get back into the game.
"After the third set, we knew we needed to take the game into our hands," said junior Jordan Young, who had 22 kills. "We knew we needed to do it for us. We wanted to win and we wanted to show it on the court. We had to show our personality and how we could push through."
Fellow outside hitter Jessica Attieh recorded 19 kills and also noted that the adversity seemed to help, not hinder the team's progress.
"I think we turned that frustration into motivation and momentum," she said. "And that got us through the fourth and fifth sets and helped us to win it."
Much like they have all season long, Young and Attieh proved to be an almost unstoppable force at the net.
"Our outsides (Attieh and Young) and Rachael Cray, our setter, did a fabulous job. It was very important," said Abi-Daher. "That was the key to our success throughout the year, having two powerful outside hitters. And when we get that ball to the net, it's a kill.
"Not to take anything away from our opposite (Julies Kollar) or our middles (Lauren Beige, Lundon Lufti). But typically your playmakers are your two outside players."
Abi-Daher had high praise for Kollar, who battled through injuries just to make it to this point.
"Julies, on the opposite, is a fabulous player," he said. "She played hurt all year long and that means a lot to an athlete, playing hurt like that.
"The future is bright for her because she knows that after playing hurt, getting down and then coming back and winning, that's something she's going to take with her. Not just in volleyball, but in life."
What the Golden Hawks will carry with them now is a well-earned state championship and the satisfaction that they truly did it as one.
"It's unbelievable. It'll probably sink in a couple days from now, or a couple weeks from now," Abi-Daher said. "But it is something very special to Bethlehem Catholic and the community, and everyone in District 11 as well. This championship is not just for us; it's for all of District 11. We represent them and I hope we made them proud."
For Attieh, winning the title as a senior was the culmination of four years of hard work.
"It's something I'll never forget," she said. "It's memories that I spent with my team before the game, during the game and after the game. All the struggles we went through, the roller coasters…everything. Now we're here and our picture's going to be up in that gym and we'll never forget it."
While Attieh will move on, Young and several others will be back to try and make history with the school's second title next season.
"It feels great. It's the first female sports team to win a state championship at our school and we're so excited," said Young. "We're so excited and so proud and we can't wait to bring it back to our school."