Standout duo, unbeaten Knoch volleyball team set to defend title
It doesn’t take long into a Knoch volleyball match to see why Hannah Rowe and Kennedy Christy have been wreaking havoc on opponents all season.
Rowe, an outside hitter, and Christy, a middle hitter, make their presence felt early and often with their ability to rise high above the net and spike the ball with force.
The junior duo has helped Knoch keep sailing along. After winning the Class AAA WPIAL and PIAA titles for the first time in school history last year, Knoch went 18-0 in the regular season and dropped only two sets. The Knights have been the No. 1 team in the Class AAA TribHSSN rankings all season and likely will be the top seed when the brackets are released Monday.
Rowe and Christy, along with Skylar Burkett, play all six rotations.
The continued development of an all-around game by Rowe and Christy has been a big key for a Knoch team that doesn’t have the depth it did last year. It adds another element to the Knights to go along with their ability to control the net.
“Both of them are in double digits for kills pretty much every night,” Knoch coach Diane Geist said. “Hannah started playing in the back row this year, and so did Skylar Burkett. Kennedy played in the back row last year. Both of them have improved their defense. We don’t have the depth we did last year, but we are more athletic. Last year a few more balls may have hit the ground, but our defense is stronger this year.”
Rowe has been displaying her athletic ability at Knoch since she was a freshman, when she was the WPIAL high jump champion. She was also a standout basketball player, but she decided to stop playing other sports and dedicate herself to volleyball.
She’s joining Christy at Renaissance Volleyball this summer. It’ll be her first time playing club volleyball, and she hopes the exposure will lead to a college scholarship.
“My heart was in volleyball the most,” Rowe said. “It was nice playing two other sports when I wasn’t playing volleyball to keep myself active, but it was taking a toll on my body. Volleyball is my calling, and that’s what I want to do after high school.”
Christy comes from an athletic family. Her dad, Jeff, was an All-Pro center in the NFL and a Super Bowl champion with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003. Her older brother Mac was a standout football and basketball player for Knoch.
“She’s been a middle hitter for us since her freshman year,” Geist said. “She is a captain along with Hannah. We only have one senior (setter Kerrie Fitzpatrick), so they have had to step up as far as being leaders. We lost a really good middle (Sarah Armahizer) that Kennedy played with last year. She’s become stronger and taken that role as the top middle.”
Christy and Rowe took some of the things they observed from Armahizer, who is at Edinboro, and applied them in their overall games and role as young leaders to complement Fitzpatrick.
“Sarah taught us to push,” Rowe said. “Last year was their first state title, too, and just working hard all the time is something you need to do to get that. If you don’t practice hard, you’re not going to play like that in games.”
“Sarah was always smart with where she would hit,” Christy said. “If they had a triple block up, she would tip to where they weren’t, and if she saw an opening, she would hit. I think that’s what made her so strong. She always knew the openings on the court.”
Knoch closed Section 4 play with 3-0 sweeps of Lincoln Park and New Castle to complete its second consecutive unbeaten section season and now sets its sights on defending its WPIAL title. Rowe and Christy will play a big part if the Knights are going to repeat.
“We’re pretty confident in where we are right now,” Rowe said. “I think we’re pretty stable. We had some spots to fill, but I think we’ve filled them well. We’ve maintained our level of aggressiveness in every match and in practice.”