Franklin Regional volleyball impresses with straight-sets win in PIAA quarterfinals

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Saturday, November 14, 2020 | 5:25 PM


There is a thing or two about his girls volleyball team coach Mike Feorene might wish he could change. It’s just Feorene doesn’t feel the need to tinker much amid another season of thrills at Franklin Regional.

When you’re shooting for a state championship, you must be doing things right.

In a week when she officially signed a letter of intent with DePaul, senior Aly Kindelberger logged 17 kills to surpass 1,000 for her career and lead Franklin Regional, which continued to roll Saturday on its home court with a three-set victory in the PIAA Class 3A quarterfinals over District 6 champion Bellefonte, 25-15, 25-17, 25-22.

Sophomore Ella Evans added nine kills, and seniors Renee Baldi and Alexa Feorene chipped in seven apiece for Franklin Regional (17-2).

Junior Sydney Breitkreutz logged nine digs, and senior Ashley Feorene contributed five service aces for the WPIAL champion Panthers, who will play four-time District 9 champion DuBois (11-4) in the semifinals Tuesday, the survivor playing in the state title match Saturday at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg.

“We feel we’re a legitimate state championship contender this year,” Alexa Feorene said. “We don’t really think much about how good we’ve been doing. It just kind of happens, and all of a sudden, you’re here.”

To be clear, there’s not a lot of luck involved here. This Franklin Regional team has few weaknesses as it continues to march through the postseason, where the Panthers dominated in the WPIAL playoffs, as they just did in the PIAA quarterfinals.

“It’s surreal,” Mike Feorene said. “Our defense is incredible. We dug five balls out of the floor today that were all in really different situations, and we actually ran an offense out of them and scored points.”

But Feorene couldn’t resist a little dig of his own, glancing at several of his players, including his twin daughters, Ashley and Alexa, who stood nearby chatting with friends.

“You’ve got to bring your voice to a different level, especially when you get to this point,” the coach said, imploring his players to use every advantage. “You have to let the other team know you’re playing big now. With our girls, they just do their job. Most times when they score, they just walk away from the net.

“But, really, I don’t have a concern. (After Sunday), We have one day to prepare for the next match.”

DuBois, the lone Class 3A team in District 9, won by forfeit over District 10 champion Conneaut in their scheduled PIAA quarterfinal-round match after the Eagles produced two positive covid-19 tests.

DuBois has not played since sweeping Brockway on Oct. 27 in its regular-season finale.

“We’re playing good volleyball now,” Mike Feorene said. “I’ve asked a lot from these girls every single game. But I tell them all the time that they’ve got to go a step higher.”

Frequently rotating his lineup, Feorene looked on as Bellefonte, which upset top-seed Hollidaysburg in the District 6 championship, took early leads in both of the first two matches.

“We were huge underdogs coming in,” first-year Bellefonte coach Moncia Smith said. “This team won three games last year. For us to turn it around and win districts is unheard of.”

It is the first district volleyball championship in Bellefonte’s history.

A 7-0 run in the first set pushed Franklin Regional in front, 16-9, and the Panthers, with lefty Ashley Feorene running off a string of service aces, closed out the Red Raiders to take a 1-0 lead.

The 6-foot-1 Kindelberger got her 1,000th career kill in the first set.

While Kindelberger is the centerpiece of the team, she’s not the only threat.

“We have depth all around,” Ashley Feorene said. “We have reliable backups that we need to be successful, and sometimes we need it quickly. We don’t ever take that for granted.”

Three consecutive kills by Evans followed by four in a row by Kindelberger gave Franklin Regional a 15-8 advantage in the third set before the Panthers held off a late Bellefonte charge that saw the Red Raiders close within 24-22 on a block by senior Makenna Port.

Senior Nicole Currens’ kill on the final play closed out the match and gave Franklin Regional the straight-sets victory.

“We didn’t think we shouldn’t be here,” Bellefonte’s Smith said. “But at the beginning of the season, we wouldn’t have believed it if you told us we would be here. We don’t even have a junior high team to feed our program, but that’s one of my goals so we can build a foundation.

“Franklin Regional is a well-established program. Their whole team played great and I wish them well.”

The victory helped Franklin Regional surpass last year’s season, where the Panthers were ousted in the PIAA quarterfinals by WPIAL champion Knoch, which finished runner-up in the state.

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