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Kiski Area volleyball in midst of best season in several years

October 12, 2018

For a girls volleyball team to come back from a two-set deficit to win a match once in a season is a nice accomplishment, but doing it twice in two weeks is a rare feat.

In the second match of the season, Kiski Area stormed back after dropping the first two sets to top Franklin Regional, 3-2, then did it again when they were in the same situation against Greensburg Salem a couple of weeks later.

The comeback Cavaliers are having one of their best starts in a long time. They are 7-2 and second place in Section 1-AAA behind Armstrong. The Cavaliers haven’t finished above .500 in section play since 2011.

“We have a lot of trust in each other,” senior outside hitter/setter Cassie Shoupe said. “When someone goes back to the service line, we know they’re going to get it over. If we get a point, we celebrate. But even if we don’t, we still come together and support each other even when someone messes up.”

Shoupe and junior Kamdyn Serakowski are versatile players who play outside hitter and setter. They play all six spots in the rotation along with outside hitter Violeta Kenzevich.

Shoupe, Serakowski and Kenzevich agreed that when the team fell behind last year, the players would get down and lack confidence. They have leaped over that hurdle this season.

Cavaliers coach Paul Tomlinson called the Franklin Regional win a “rallying point.”

Not much went right in the first two sets, but once the Cavaliers got into a rhythm they found their game and started rolling.

“The first two games we lost by a good amount, but coach (Tomlinson) kept saying he wasn’t worried about it and that he knew we could play better,” Serakowski said. “In the third game, I think all of us kind of said to ourselves that we could play better and that we could beat that team, and we did. It was great.

“It showed that as a whole we don’t give up. Not many teams come back like that, but we’ve shown that we will fight to get a win. You just have to forget about your past mistakes and move forward. That’s what a good team does. You don’t hang on to them, but you learn from them and do better.”

Kenzevich and junior middle hitter Lilliana Harding rank 1-2 in kills on the team.

The Cavaliers have a good senior base, including libero Kali Lewis, defensive specialist Janet Nauyokas, oustside hitters Aaleya Williams and Allison Russell and middle hitters Kayla and Dara Zelonka.

Shoupe said the team built a trust and respect for one another over the summer during the Sunday night scrimmages Kiski Area hosts.

They also respect where they are in standings.

“We definitely appreciate the wins a little bit more, and we are working a little bit harder in practice this year,” Kenzevich said. “It’s really exciting because this is the first time in a while that Kiski Area volleyball has done well. The connection between all of us relationship-wise is unbelievable. We really are a family here at Kiski Area.”

Kiski Area has a rematch with Franklin Regional on Monday and travels to Greensburg Salem on Oct. 18 for the section finale. The Cavaliers’ only two losses came against Armstrong, including a 3-0 loss on Thursday, which gave the River Hawks a two-game lead in the standings.

Kiski Area made the playoffs as a fourth-place team last season and was eliminated in a play-in game 3-0 by Connellsville. They last won a playoff game in 2010, the same year as their last section title, but they’re confident they can put an end to that drought.

“I know I have some good weapons on this team, and they believe in themselves,” Tomlinson said. “They’re a lot of fun to watch. In our first two sets of the year against Indiana, they were on fire. It was like they couldn’t get a ball down on us. When they play that well, there aren’t too many teams out there that we can’t compete against.

“I’m looking forward to making a playoff run, because I think we can surprise a lot of people.”

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