Kiski Area volleyball making steady climb in Section 1-AAA

Sunday, October 6, 2019 | 5:06 PM

The day before Thursday’s crucial Section 1-AAA match with Armstrong, Kiski Area libero Rebekah Fowler didn’t want to give too much away.

“We’re expecting big things,” She said.

Fowler, her Cavaliers teammates and first-year coach Jodie McCartney could not have prognosticated what took place 24 hours later, but it was certainly a big moment for the program.

Kiski Area dropped the first two sets against the River Hawks but dug deep and summoned a 3-2 win during their Dig Pink cancer awareness game.

It was a night that could go a long way for a team building confidence with each game. The Cavaliers pulled into a second-place tie with Armstrong at 7-3 with four games remaining. It was the first time in the last three years the Cavaliers bear the River Hawks.

“After the second set, I just told the seniors that this is it. This is the last time you’ll play them,” McCartney said. “They just dug deep and played together. They showed a lot of grit and perseverance, and they pulled it out.

“After we won the (fourth set), I think they started believing that they could outlast them. Armstrong is a team that you can’t celebrate a point against until the whistle blows, because they’re such a scrappy team that finds a way to get it back over the net. They played well, but we were able to play a little bit better.”

After losing the first two sets 25-21, 25-20, the Cavaliers rallied 25-18, 25-21 and 15-12 to win.

Kiski Area had to find the right combination. Seniors Camdyn Serakowski and Violeta Kenzevich were the only returning starters, so McCartney experimented with different rotations and lineups before hitting on something that worked during the first meeting with No. 4 Franklin Regional.

Once that was established, it has been a steady climb. In the rematch against the Panthers, Kiski Area lost 3-1 but showed improvement from the first meeting, which gave them confidence going into the Armstrong match.

“It was a little frustrating at first trying to find something to click, but once it started to click, it felt right,” Fowler said. “There wasn’t any more tension or awkwardness on the court with our rotation. Now we know it, and it’s solidified.”

Outside hitter Rachel Brooks, who had seven kills in the Armstrong win, Alexis Caldwell, Brooke Endress, Fowler, Sidney Joyce and Ashley Debich have been key members along with Serakowski and Kenzevich. Freshman Bryn Hewitt comes into the game as a serving specialist. Serakowski and Fowler are captains.

McCartney took over for Paul Tomlinson, who retired after last season. She previously coached seven years ago with her late sister, Jaime Vick Moran, and the late Ellen Toy, helping out while each of them was going through battles with cancer.

She stepped away from coaching to raise her two young children, but once she learned of Tomlinson’s retirement she decided it was right time to get back on the sidelines.

“It’s really changed a lot in the last seven years. Most of the players now play club volleyball,” McCartney said. “Paul has helped me out a lot. He’s been really great with the transition. My high school volleyball coach Meghan Lucas, who’s the head coach at Butler. has helped as well and so has Tim Toy, Ellen’s husband. I also couldn’t ask for better group of girls to work with. They’ve been great.”

Serakowski is thankful to have McCartney on the sidelines for her final varsity season.

“She’s amazing,” Serakowski said. “She’s brought so much to this team already. I can’t thank her enough for what she’s done to help me individually and what’s she’s done for the future of Kiski Area volleyball. Big things are going to happen here, because of her.”

The Cavaliers have McKeesport, Gateway, Woodland Hills and Greensburg Salem remaining on the schedule. If they win out, they have a good shot of finishing second in the section.

Kiski Area won a playoff game last year 3-0 over West Allegheny before falling to eventual champion Knoch in the quarterfinals. With the momentum rolling, the Cavaliers are aiming to make noise once again.

“Winning that first playoff game was huge for us,” Serakowski said. “Going into the season with only two returning starters…we’re very young, but we have a lot of potential. We work well together and have good chemistry. I think we have a good shot at playoffs this year.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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