DISTRICT 2-4 VOLLEYBALL: ATHENS PLAYS FOR FIRST DISTRICT TITLE SINCE 2005; TAKES ON UNBEATEN BERWICK
(2020-11-05)By TIM BIRNEYValley Sports Report
THE VALLEY — Athens volleyball plays for its first District title since 2005, and it will do so a hostile environment — the home court of the top-seeded and unbeaten Berwick Lady Bulldogs.
The Lady Wildcats, now 12-6, advanced to the finals with a sweep at sixth-seeded Tunkhannock, while Berwick, now 15-0, advanced with a sweep of fourth-seed Crestwood.
The teams have faced two common opponents: Athens edged Greater Nanticoke in a five-set thriller and swept Tunkhannock, while the Lady Bulldogs swept both.
Berwick swept 12 of their 15 matches this season. They topped Crestwood in five sets in the season-opener, beat District 2 Class AAAA champ Delaware Valley in five sets, and vanquished District 2, Class AA champ Holy Redeemer, 3-1.
Athens went more than a decade without qualifying for the postseason until coach Heather Hanson’s arrival prior to the 2018 season.
In the 2018 season, Athens posted a winning record and advanced to the postseason. Last year, the Lady Wildcats won their first postseason match since 2006. And now, they are playing for district gold.
Hanson is pleased with the progression of her program.
“I’m just really proud of the girls,” she said. “They listen to me, and they’ve put the work in.
“Since I’ve been here, I’ve had open gyms every summer, and off-season workouts, and at least
seven to 10 of the girls in the core group came to every workout,” said Hanson. “They deserve this.
“There’s so much for this volleyball program — it’s unlimited,” she added.
Hanson has put a slightly disappointing 10-6 regular season behind her.
“In the preseason, I told you I thought we could go undefeated,” she said. “That didn’t work out, but I don’t really care about the regular season anymore. It’s about what we can do in the playoffs now..
“These girls have goals, and they want the District jackets the soccer teams always wear,” laughed Hanson.
“There’s no reason we can’t keep winning. When we put limitations on ourselves because a team we’re playing has a good reputation … that mental game has always been a block for us, and we need to get over that.
Game time is 5 p.m. at the Berwick Middle School gymnasium.
IN PHOTO: Athens coach Heather Hanson.
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