Gateway boys volleyball fends off Plum challenge, finishes undefeated in section

Tuesday, May 10, 2022 | 10:17 PM

The Plum boys volleyball team hoped to play spoiler and prevent visiting Gateway from finishing its Section 2-2A slate undefeated as the teams met in the section finale Tuesday at Plum.

But the Gators, No. 6 in this week’s Western PA Volleyball Coaches Association Class 2A top 10, had other ideas. They won the first, third and fourth game en route to a 3-1 victory.

Gateway came into the match already having clinched its first section title since 1986. It finished section play at 8-0.

“Plum looked fantastic. Clear growth from the last time we played them,” Gateway coach Phil Randolph said, referring to a 3-1 Gators win over the Mustangs at Gateway on April 19.

“We were able to make the plays at the right times to hold them off. It was a good win for us.”

Plum, which honored its five seniors — Nick Capalongo, Nick Killinger, Cameron Moss, Thomas Marzina and Rocco Schneiderlochner — before the match, capped its section schedule at 5-3.

“We showed improvement,” Plum coach Fisher Bagiatis said. “It was the first time we played a team of that caliber in a while, so we got to really see how we sized up. Offensively, we matched up great. Defensively, we were a little limited. The first step is to work out some things on defense, and I think we can make a good, realistic run in the playoffs.”

The Class 2A playoff bracket and pairings are expected to be released Friday with first-round matches to begin as early as Monday.

Gateway senior 6-foot-1 hitter Chris Lewis was under the weather and didn’t play in Tuesday’s match.

“Chris has been one of our best players for years, and not having him magnified the role he plays on our team,” Randolph said. “With any sport, it’s next man up, and the guys dug a little deeper and worked a little harder. It was awesome to see all of that come to fruition tonight.”

The Gators rallied in Lewis’ absence and started with a win in Game 1.

Gateway used several strong swings to grab an early 4-1 lead.

The Gators led 8-4 and hoped to expand their advantage, but Plum hung tough. The Mustangs tied the game at 11, 12 and 14 before Gateway scored the next two points to take a 16-14 lead, prompting a Plum timeout.

The Gators expanded their lead to 18-14 and 20-16, but Plum still wouldn’t go away and rallied to take a lead at 22-20.

The game was tied at 23, 24 and 25 before a combo block from Will Kromka and Gabe Sha and a Plum hit that landed wide gave Gateway the win, 27-25.

Gateway led early in Game 2, but Plum scrapped its way back and tied the match at 13 on a combo block from Killinger and Adam Smith and took the lead, 14-13 on a Killinger kill.

But the Gators used a 7-2 run to open a 20-16 lead, and Plum used a timeout to try to stop Gateway’s momentum.

It worked, as Plum fought its way back to take a 24-23 lead on another Killinger kill and finished off the game as the Mustangs block turned away a Sha kill attempt at the net for the 25-23 victory.

Game 3 started in Gateway’s favor as it led 10-6 before Plum rallied to tie the game at 11 and 12 on kills from Killinger and Moss.

But the Gators grabbed control of the game on a combination of Plum miscues and Gateway offense.

Sha put down a kill to make it 24-17 before a Plum hit into the net finished off the 25-17 Gators win.

Gateway led 10-7 in Game 4 after a Sha kill, but the teams found themselves tied at 13.

Swings from Moss, Marzina and Killinger kept Plum in the game, but kills from Kromka, Jace Beam and Noah Passalinqua kept Gateway ahead.

A Plum miss hit at the net and a service ace from Sha extended the Gators’ lead to 22-18.

Points on a pair of kills from Kromka put Gateway a match point, and Passalinqua put down a kill to end the game, 25-20, and finish off the four-game victory.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at or via Twitter .

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