Knoch block party frustrates volleyball foes

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Friday, November 8, 2019 | 5:51 PM


In last week’s WPIAL Class AAA semifinal victory over Franklin Regional, Knoch girls volleyball players recorded more than two dozen blocks, with four players leading the way with six apiece.

Senior Hannah Rowe tallied 14 blocks in Saturday’s WPIAL title game victory, and fellow senior Skylar Burkett added five.

On Tuesday, in the Knights’ PIAA first-round sweep of South Fayette, players combined for 15 blocks.

The postseason block party, junior middle hitter Quinn Hughes said, has been an important match-altering component of the team’s journey to Saturday’s noon quarterfinal rematch with Franklin Regional at Shaler High School.

“The key for us has been understanding, with our height, how much of a blocking team we truly are,” Hughes said.

“When we didn’t have (seniors) Hannah (Rowe) and Kennedy (Christy), they help put up such a huge block, the focus in practice was to work harder on getting the block up and making sure everyone was doing their job at the net. It just radiates a ton of energy when the block is working as well as it can.”

Junior middle hitter Kate McCarty said she appreciates when an effective block influences opponents to alter their hitting objectives.

“It can get in their head a little bit, and it often creates easier hits for us,” she said. “A good stuff block can create a lot of momentum.”

Knoch coach Diane Geist said this is the best she’s seen her team block in a while.

“If you’re a hitter, and you get blocked, right away, you’re mad,” Geist said. “If you get blocked again, you’re super mad. Sometimes, people will start rolling over the block or start tipping the ball more. It can get a team out of its gameplan and can be really effective.”

Knoch (20-1) again is at full strength as senior hitter Kennedy Christy returned to the lineup against South Fayette after missing her team’s four-game run to a third straight WPIAL crown with a concussion.

She was able to practice but on a limited basis as she waited to get the word she could return to the lineup.

That word came Monday as she passed the required tests.

“We were in the doctor’s office, and my mom was so happy, I thought she was going to cry,” Christy said. “She thought I might be done.”

Christy recorded five kills against the Lions in about a game and a half of action, and that output complemented an offensive effort that included 11 kills and three aces from Burkett, 10 kills from Rowe and four more from senior Morgan Frishkorn.

“I was a little rusty because I hadn’t played with the team in a while,” she said. “But towards the end of the match, my chemistry with my teammates was back, and it felt really good.

“I am just so happy my season isn’t over and I can help my team push for another state title.”

Knoch is one step away from its third straight trip to the PIAA semifinals, but it has to get past a Franklin Regional squad coming off a four-game victory against District 10 champion Conneaut.

The Panthers (17-1) got 17 kills and five blocks from DePaul recruit Aly Kindelberger in the first state-tournament win in program history.

They rallied from a 30-28 loss in Game 1 to win three in a row as Hannah Flick added nine kills, and Renee Baldy and Alexa Feorene contributed seven kills apiece.

The Knights-Panthers winner will face Thomas Jefferson or District 3 champion Palmyra in Tuesday’s semifinals.

“We have to assume they will change up some things and maybe move some people around,” said Geist, concerning Franklin Regional’s game plan for Saturday’s rematch.

“They have a lot of talented and versatile players, just like we do. I’ve seen a couple of their game videos, and they have had different people hitting and things like that. We need to play our game and be ready for anything.”

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

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