Kindelberger leads Franklin Regional volleyball to opening-round upset over Laurel Highlands
Sometimes having a Division I talent can be the difference. Being unconditionally resilient helps, too. For No. 11 Franklin Regional, on Thursday night at Serra Catholic High School, the Panthers had both.
Aly Kindelberger, a 6-foot-2 sophomore already receiving interest from at least one of the nation’s top collegiate volleyball programs, had eight of her match-high 19 kills in the final set, as the Panthers took down No. 6 Laurel Highlands, 3-1, in the WPIAL Class 3A first round.
“No matter where she’s at, up front, our setters know to keep feeding her the ball,” Franklin Regional coach Mike Feorene said. “She knows she’s going to get blocked every once in a while. But, ultimately, she dominates up front. They couldn’t stop her. The defense couldn’t stop her. She was the difference-maker in the game.”
The tone was set late in the opening set. Down 23-21, Feorene took a timeout. The Panthers rattled off four consecutive points, with a pair of service aces by Paige Feorene.
Franklin Regional’s never-say-die attitude extended deeper into the match. Despite losing the second set 25-19, the Panthers rallied from down 20-9 to pull with four points.
Similarly, the third set found Franklin Regional behind 17-13. The Panthers closed the set on a 12-3 run, paced by five kills in the set by Kindelberger and a pair of key service aces from Maddie Breitkreutz.
“I think our focus here was just on our mental game,” Mustangs coach Emily Kontor said. “It wasn’t as strong as what we’ve seen in other games, where we’ve played tougher teams.”
Laurel Highlands’ sister combo of Emily and Angel Buwawa each had nine kills. Their other sister, Bella, had five kills and four blocks. But their efforts just were not enough to match Franklin Regional’s resiliency.
“Whenever you do have a game on the line, where you know there’s not a tomorrow, where you know there’s not a rest of the season, it’s a bigger stake to come back from,” Kontor added.
Franklin Regional ripped off an 8-0 run to begin the final set and, despite Laurel Highlands pulling to within three points, the Panthers held on for a 25-22 win.
The victory is an impressive one for a team that struggled mightily in 2017. Now Franklin Regional finds itself in the quarterfinals, where it will meet Thomas Jefferson next Tuesday.
“This team was 0-10 last year in the section,” Mike Feorene said. “They understand what adversity adversity is. Down nine points, 10 points, it doesn’t really matter to them. They have a fighting spirit.”