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Knoch volleyball to collide with Central Valley in WPIAL semifinals

November 23, 2018

Knoch girls volleyball finds itself one win away from being able to defend its WPIAL Class AAA title, but standing in the way is the opponent that has tested the Knights the most this season.

The top-seeded Knights play Section 3 rival and fourth-seeded Central Valley at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at North Allegheny with a berth in the WPIAL final on the line.

The Warriors (14-3) were the only team to take a set off the Knights (20-0) in the regular season, and they did it twice. Knoch also dropped a set to Ambridge in the first round of the playoffs.

Knoch expects another challenging match Thursday.

“We’re a good matchup,” Knoch senior setter Kerrie Fitzpatrick said. “I think that both teams can say that they play their best against each other. They push us, and I feel like we push them because when we play it is such good volleyball. They are one of the scrappiest teams in our section, so it was definitely harder for our hitters to get a point off of them. It pushes our hitters and makes them better.”

Knoch, which has won 44 matches in a row, advanced to the semifinals with a convincing 3-0 sweep of Kiski Area on Tuesday, and Central Valley topped Hampton, 3-1. Both teams secured spots in the PIAA tournament.

Central Valley coach Kevin Hummert said there were some nerves in the Hampton match because his girls wanted to clinch the first PIAA berth in program history. Now, they are looking forward to a third meeting with Knoch.

“The girls are pretty excited,” Hummert said. “They look at this as fun. They know they’ve taken a game off of Knoch both times we played them. There were some nerves (Tuesday), but they were much more loose and having fun at practice (Wednesday). They’re looking forward to the opportunity.”

The Warriors nearly pushed Knoch to the brink in the second meeting. They won the first set and led 24-23 in the second set before the Knights rallied to win 26-24. Knoch ended up pulling away for a 3-1 victory, but it was a taste of adversity they hadn’t faced all season.

“They’re a team that you have to ride out the storm against,” Knoch coach Diane Geist said. That’s usually what happens. You ride out the storm, and hopefully you can stay afloat the longest. They are a good team, but hopefully we can keep the mojo going.”

Central Valley has a pair of formidable outside hitters in Tatum LeDonne and Kelsey Dickenson.

Knoch’s hitting duo of Kennedy Christy and Hannah Rowe has been strong all season, and they had 17 kills apiece in the quarterfinal win over Kiski Area. Central Valley’s ability to dig out kill attempts impressed Christy in the first two meetings.

“They are a good serving team, and they have good defense,” Christy said. “It’s hard to get a ball down against them. To do that, we have to get passes up. For me personally, I feel like I’ve been struggling with passing, and I think this next game against (Central Valley) will give me a chance to show myself that I can do it.”

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