BLUE BELL, Pa. - Harrisburg Area Community College coach Tom Frye was hoping for a different ending. Unfortunately for his fifth-seeded Hawks, the story unfolded much like it did in the two regular season matches - with Montgomery's women's volleyball team walking off the court with a hard-fought 3-2 win.
The victory lands the fourth-seeded Mustangs in Region XIX Final Four semifinal against top seeded and three-time defending Region XIX champion Northampton. The match will be played Saturday, Oct. 24, at 11 am at Northampton Community College, the host site for the Region XIX Tournament.
Montgomery was eliminated in straight sets by Northampton in the first round of the tournament last year. This season the Mustangs played the Spartans tough at times, but were swept in both matches as Coach Rita Rivera had no answer for Coach Adrian Yaguez's squad.
One thing is certain entering Saturday's match: Rivera's team must drastically reduce the number of miscues that nearly eliminated the Mustangs from the tournament on Tuesday. Rivera could only shake her head looking at stat sheets that included 25 hitting errors and nine ball handling errors.
"We have a lot of work to do before Saturday's semifinal," Rivera said. "Northampton is the top seed. They're a good team and they're well-coached. But if we can eliminate the mistakes we'll give ourselves a fighting chance."
As for Tuesday's match, the Mustangs won the first set 25-23 and had an early 7-2 lead in the second set. However, timely play by the Hawks coupled with errors by the home team allowed the Hawks to rally from as many as six points down to take the second set, 28-26. Harrisburg carried over that momentum to the third set, cruising past Montgomery 25-12.
From that point Rivera's team showed tremendous resiliency and fight.
Contributions from up and down the roster -- including several diving plays by Anna Morgan and key blocks by Hiba Elrhanjaoul, Victoria Biggins and Morgan -- allowed the Mustangs to even the match with a thrilling 26-24 win in the fourth set. The play carried over into the fifth set as the Mustangs jumped out to a 9-2 lead, then held off a Hawks' rally to win the decisive set, 15-12.
Biggins recorded 53 assists, while Courtney Gill registered 35 kills and 18 digs. Colby Shackelford was also credited with 18 digs.
The win keeps the book open on this 2015 season as the Mustangs advance to the Final Four. Montgomery last won the Region XIX Championship in 2011.
Like her Harrisburg counterpart Tuesday night, Rivera is hoping for a different ending vs. Northampton on Saturday.
"Our program has made great strides this season," Rivera said. "I am very proud of these girls and the way they have grown and developed. Our story continues Saturday. We can control how it ends."
- By Bob Kent, Sports Information Director