Knoch volleyball sweeps Central Valley to return to WPIAL title game
Prior to Thursday’s WPIAL Class AAA semifinal, Knoch girls volleyball coach Diane Geist said one of the keys to playing Section 3 rival Central Valley was riding out the storm of consecutive points the Warriors can put up in any given set.
The Warriors had a storm brewing early, taking a six-point lead in the first set, but Knoch hunkered down, called timeout and responded with a monsoon of its own.
The top-seeded Knights scored 17 of the next 20 points to rally for a victory in the first game and had smooth sailing from there in a 3-0 sweep of Central Valley at North Allegheny.
The Knights will defend their Class AAA crown Saturday against No. 3 Thomas Jefferson in the finals at Fox Chapel. The Jaguars were 3-1 winners over No. 10 Elizabeth Forward in their semifinal.
Knoch (21-0) extended its winning streak to 45 games, winning 25-17, 25-16, 25-20.
Kennedy Christy and Hannah Rowe had 12 kills apiece, and Skye Burkett had eight kills for Knoch.
“This feels amazing,” said Burkett about returning to the finals. “It’s just a rush of emotions. It’s crazy.”
Central Valley (14-4) took advantage of some hitting mistakes from Knoch early in the first set and got two kills apiece from Tatum LeDonne and Kelsey Dickinson to build a 14-8 cushion before Knoch called timeout.
″(The timeout) was more about telling them to calm down than anything,” Geist said. “Our goal tonight was just to stay calm. We knew they’d come out tough. We needed to stay relaxed and play our game and we did that.”
The Knights responded with an 8-0 run highlighted by a kill and a block by Christy that got them back in the set. Then, with the score tied 17-17, Knoch closed with another 8-0 run. Burkett got it started with a kill from the left side, and Hannah Rowe finished it with back-to-back kills, the first one with some authority.
After misfiring on five of their first six kill attempts, the Knights zeroed in the second half of the set.
“We’ve know our athleticism is a major factor this year, so if we were going to shank a hit, shank it into the court,” Rowe said. “We had played better defense that we had during that (first set) and could hit better than that. We knew we just needed to make hard, but smarter, hits and pass better.”
After the first, Knoch trailed only twice more in the match.
Burkett sparked a 6-0 run in the second with a trio of kills, which swelled Knoch’s lead to 19-11. The Warriors made six errors, three hitting, two serving and one net violation to give Knoch the points it needed to close it out.
The Warriors also gave Knoch its final three points on hitting errors in the third set.
Central Valley took a set off Knoch in both meetings in the regular season, but couldn’t muster much after squandering its lead in the first.
“They played their normal game, and I think we came in here with a happy-to-be-here mentality,” Central Valley coach Kevin Hummert said. “The first two times we played Knoch were much more intense and much better games. We started well, but after that our libero, who’s a good passer, couldn’t pass, our hitters couldn’t hit and servers couldn’t serve. Everything that could go wrong, did.”
Kenzie Kerkan had 18 service points for the Knights. Dickinson led Central Valley with 11 kills.