Royals Hold Off Pesky Tigers

May 7, 2019

TUNKHANNOCK — Jack Kablick knew it wasn’t going to be easy.

That’s why it shocked the veteran Holy Redeemer head coach when his Royals handled Tunkhannock with relative ease in the first two sets.

The next two wouldn’t be so easy.

Tunkhannock took the third, and held a lead late in the fourth. But behind a big swing from junior Jared Piontkowski, Redeemer won the set 27-25 and left Wyoming County with a 3-1 win over the Tigers in Wyoming Valley Conference play in a two-hour thriller. Set scores were 25-12, 25-13, 21-25 and 27-25.

This could be a possible preview of the District 2 Class 2A championship, as both will be top seeds in the bracket that begins later in the month.

“This was just a great match between two of the best teams in the conference,” Piontkowski said. “And both were fighting for that top spot. You knew it wasn’t going to be easy, and they showed why. They played amazing in the third set, but I think the experience from playing in those tournaments really helped out.”

The victory sets up a winner-take-all matchup Wednesday as Redeemer and Delaware Valley, both undefeated in league play, meet up at Redeemer with the victor walking away WVC champ.

“After that second set, we told the boys in the huddle that we still needed 25 points,” Kablick said. “We just had some mental mistakes in that third set, especially with the missed serves. And when you do that, the other team starts to gain confidence. They just outplayed us in the third set, give them credit. I thought we responded well in the fourth.”

It was a tale of two different hours.

Hour 1: It was a state power with its future Division 1 junior attacker straight-up dominating.

Hour 2: The pesky Tigers wouldn’t back down on their home court on Senior Night.

Redeemer was clearly the aggressor in the first two sets. The Royals jumped out to 13-4 leads in both of the first two sets, Piontkowski was firing on all sides, and George Beck did a great job of running the offense through four different attackers.

The end result was a quick, 2-0 lead in the match.

“I was surprised in the first two sets because I thought it was going to be one of those matches where we had to grind it out,” Kablick said. “We are living and dying with a bunch of sophomores, and it shows sometimes.”

That’s when The Jungle woke up.

Inside a sweltering gymnasium, and with the Tiger faithful roaring in the stands, Tunkhannock stepped up.

Behind three straight kills from Trejon Turner and a 5-0 run on Avery Billings’ serve, Jeff Howells’ club jumped out to a 13-6 lead. Redeemer cut it back to 24-21 on back-to-back kills from Piontkowski, but it was Turner’s fifth spike of the set that gave his club a 25-21 victory.

It was the first time this season Redeemer dropped a set in league play.

“I’m proud of our kids because they were able to dig deep after dropping the first two sets,” said Howell, Tunkhannock’s head coach. “We came out firing in that third game, and we were right there in the fourth. Our kids know that they can play with teams like Holy Redeemer now. That will help us going into the playoffs.”

Tunkhannock jumped out to a 9-7 lead in the fourth set before Luigi Romano made his presence known behind the service line. With Romano firing darts to almost the same exact spot on the court, Redeemer strung together together nine straight points for a seven-point lead.

The Tigers made one last push.

Using an 11-4 run, Tunkhannock knotted the match at 20-20, and had a chance to win the set after a Paul Binner spike gave his team a 24-23 lead.

But Redeemer never blinked, and Piontkowski’s 31st kill of the match sealed the 27-25 fourth-set victory.

“Nerve-racking, that’s all I can say,” Romano said. “I think we did a good job of handling the pressure in the first, second and fourth sets, but we had a bit of a slip-up in that third set. I think we had to get a little more determined going into the fourth, and just finish the game off.”