Westmoreland County high school notebook: Hempfield’s Schade signs with Eastern Kentucky

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Saturday, January 6, 2018 | 7:48 PM


A trip to the WPIAL volleyball semifinals in the fall was more rewarding than Kierstin Schade could have imagined.

Schade helped underdog Hempfield reach the Class 4A final four as the 12th-seeded Spartans logged upsets against No. 5 seed Pine-Richland and No. 4 Baldwin.

They lost to No. 1 North Allegheny in the semis, but Schade was greeted with a nice consolation prize: a Division I scholarship offer.

The 6-foot-2 senior middle hitter didn't know Eastern Kentucky coaches quietly were following her progress. EKU coach Lori Duncan is a 1980 Norwin graduate and known for recruiting players from the WPIAL.

Schade gladly accepted the offer and Thursday afternoon made the deal official by signing her letter of intent.

“The coach's sister came to see me play … I was super shocked,” Schade said. “The next day, I sent film and some background and they set up an official visit. I loved the campus.”

Schade also had offers from Division II schools Edinboro and Seton Hill.

“She has wonderful size and can be such a game-changer,” Hempfield coach Kathy Kuhns said. “Her arm-swing is very natural. She led us in the playoffs.”

Once a promising softball player — a catcher, in fact, despite her height — Schade quit that sport after seventh grade to pursue volleyball.

“I think it hit me in ninth grade that I had a realistic chance to play in college,” she said. “I had some knee injuries, but I worked hard to rehab with Greg (Meisner) and he really helped me get back. I really love volleyball, and I am willing to put in all the time and effort to play at the next level.”

Meisner, Hempfield's athletic director, spends hours in the school's weight room working with student-athletes.

“We put her through an NFL workout,” Meisner said. “She worked really hard to get to where she is.”

Duncan has coached at her college alma mater for two decades. Other WPIAL players on the most recent EKU roster included Maria Ferragonio (Norwin), Kaylin Johnson (McKeesport), Clairissa Hankinson (Plum), Lauren Kolenik (Serra Catholic) and Celina Sanks (Knoch).

North Allegheny's Mika Logan is another incoming recruit.

“I looked up to (Ferragonio) as a D-I player,” Schade said. “It's crazy to think I will be going to the same school as her. She played 15 minutes down the road from me.”

Weather or not

A number of local schools canceled classes Friday because of the frigid temperatures and followed with the postponements of basketball games.

But games went on at Latrobe and Penn Hills, among other places.

So why do some schools postpone games while others play?

Each district has the authority to self-govern during weather cancellations. Some have an automatic rule: no school, no games, meets or matches.

Others can choose on a case-by-case basis, such as Latrobe, which decided to play its boys basketball Friday night against visiting Hempfield despite canceling classes.

“We didn't want (the basketball team) to have to play back-to-back (section games),” Latrobe athletic director Mark Mears said. “It can be a mess. It's better to play if you can. We knew people would still come, but we weren't forcing them to come out.”

Mears was right. The game sold out Friday, with an estimated 1,100 packing the gym.

Games rescheduled

Two local boys basketball games postponed because of Friday's deep-freeze have been rescheduled.

Franklin Regional will play at 7:30 Monday night at Gateway, and Jeannette travels to Leechburg for a 2 p.m. tip on Saturday.

Locals in baseball showcase

Three Westmoreland County high school baseball players were invited to the 2018 Under Armour All-American Pre-Season tournament at Sloan Park, the Chicago Cubs' training facility in Mesa, Ariz.

Jeannette senior infielders Tyler Elliott and Tre Cunningham and Hempfield senior infielder Justin Wright will head to Arizona Jan. 12-14 and will be playing three games for the East team.

The tournament brings handpicked players, more than 435 from across the country, to compete and train. The players qualified at the Under Armour Baseball Factory National Tryout, which was held at Cool Springs Sports Complex in Pittsburgh.

Teams will compete in three days of intense competition in front of college coaches and scouts. Last year, all 30 MLB teams had a scouting representative at the event along with the MLB Scouting Bureau.

The players were put through numerous drills including fielding ability, hitting, the 60- and 30-yard dashes, shuttle runs, a broad jump, throwing and bat speed.

Elliott and Cunningham helped Jeannette capture its first WPIAL Class A baseball title last season. Wright is a St. John's commit.

DeBone breaks record

Hempfield senior Molly DeBone broke the meet record in the pole vault last week at the indoor track and field Hagerstown Holiday Invitational. Her record height was 11 feet, 9 inches, breaking the mark of 11-6.

DeBone is a West Virginia recruit.

Paul Schofield contributed. Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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