Derry gives undefeated Meadville run for its money in PIAA loss

By: Josh Rizzo
Saturday, June 1, 2019 | 6:24 PM


John Kerr constantly was looking to stay focused and intense.

The 6-foot-6 Derry senior outsider hitter knew a lax effort wasn’t going to work during a PIAA Class AA quarterfinal Saturday at Penn Hills.

Undefeated District 10 champion Meadville never planned to take its foot off the gas pedal. The Trojans would have to keep pace.

Derry matched the Bulldogs’ grit but were undone by a few late errors in a 3-2 (25-23, 19-25, 26-28, 25-22, 15-12) defeat.

“We had to match their defensive intensity,” Kerr said. “That’s what they love to do. They love their defense, but they have some hitting powers, too. We had to come out there, swing the ball hard, swing it smart and put it in good spots where we knew they weren’t.”

Kerr, a Penn State commit, finished with 31 kills, three blocks and a service ace. Jason Geary added five kills, three blocks and an ace for the Trojans. Derry (16-5) led by three points twice in the deciding set.

The Trojans’ latest lead, 11-8, came after a Kerr kill. Following a timeout by Meadville (17-0), everything changed.

The Bulldogs went on a 5-0 run, helped along by two Derry attack errors and a net violation. Tucker Watson also contributed a block, and Julian Jones had a kill for Meadville.

Derry finished with 15 services errors.

“I think we blew serves at critical times,” Trojans coach Shawn Spencer said. “Blown serves happen, it’s at the times you do it. We come out of the timeout up 11-8, and we blew that serve and gave them an easy out. They started to get momentum from that point on and tough to get it back.”

Spencer said he didn’t feel Derry had major issues with serve-receive. Both teams made their share of mistakes.

“I feel like when you look at the scores and the total numbers of points by each team is tied, that tells you a lot about the quality of volleyball that’s going on out there in a five-game match,” Spencer said. “Sure, you’d like to pass every ball perfectly and serve every ball over the net awesomely. You are going to have those mistakes. It’s the times and the way you bounce back from them that matter.”

Derry clawed back into the fifth set on a Colton Nemcheck kill that cut the lead to 13-12. Two attack errors from the Trojans gave Meadville the victory.

The Bulldogs had to overcome their own offensive difficulties. Leading 23-19 in the third set, Meadville committed four straight attack errors. Derry rode the momentum to a 28-26 win that put it on the brink of its first semifinal berth in five years.

“They just had to reset,” Bulldogs coach Nick Bancroft said. “They were swinging aggressive swings, which is fine. It’s part of the game.”

Aiden Miller led Meadville with 13 kills, and Julian Jones and Paul Leech each had six.

It was the second straight year the Trojans lost in the quarterfinals.

“It’s been a pretty good overall career here,” Kerr said. “The past two years we got past the first round. That’s something that’s going to stay with me forever.”

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