Knoch girls volleyball team doesn’t let success become distraction

Sunday, October 13, 2019 | 5:50 PM

The last few seasons for the Knoch girls volleyball team has been a special ride, with two WPIAL titles and a PIAA title. So as the postseason approaches, it is natural for the seniors to dream of finishing their careers with winning a third district title.

After all, they are human, even if their current run would suggest that they are a machine with wins in 62 of their last 63 matches.

When they are between the lines for a match, however, they shut out any thoughts of what lies ahead and zero in on the task at hand. That formula has led to their success.

“I sometimes think about it. It’s in the back of my head, but I do my best not to focus on it,” senior middle hitter Kennedy Christy said. “I don’t want to put it up on a pedestal, because with the chance that it wouldn’t happen, I don’t want to feel let down about it. I have to do what is important now and really focus on that before we even get to a WPIAL final.”

Christy, Hannah Rowe, Kenzie Kerkan and Skylar Burkett make up a senior group that played together the last two years under the direction of longtime coach Diane Geist.

Rowe, an Albany recruit, is sidelined with a back injury, but the team is optimistic that she can return for the postseason. Christy moved into Rowe’s slot, playing all the way around the rotation, and junior Kate McCarty has slotted in at middle hitter.

With Rowe out Knoch continued its strong play with three wins last week: 3-1 over Plum and 3-0 sweeps of Section 4-AAA foes Mars and Ambridge.

Christy has seen all the players raise their level in Rowe’s absence.

“It’s been different (without Rowe), but everyone has stepped up and worked to better themselves, so we can be better as a team on the court,” Christy said.

Rowe, of course, is looking forward to returning, but she looks at the current situation as any other adversity Knoch has faced recently. Last year, she gutted her way through a nagging knee injury and wore a brace for most matches. It’s all part of what has made the run so special to her.

“I think knowing all of this time, work and effort that we’ve put into practice all of these years has paid off is very rewarding,” Rowe said. “It’s showed with how well we’ve done throughout the years. You get that feeling in your heart like,’Wow we’ve worked so hard for this.’

“We know it’s harder to stay on top than it is to get there. We do specific drills and situations that help us, because there are times that other teams are out to get us. That’s when we need to push as hard as they do.”

The lone graduate from last year, Kerrie Fitzpatrick, was the setter, and Knoch has filled that void with two players, Burkett and Morgan Jack. Burkett is also an outside hitter when she rotates to the front row.

“Morgan Jack has really stepped it up and tried to fill Kerrie’s shoes as best as she can,” Christy said. “This is her first year playing varsity full time. She’s done a great job.”

Knoch plays Lincoln Park and New Castle next week to conclude section play and ends the regular season Friday with a tough test at Shaler, ranked No. 8 in the Western Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Associaiton Class AAAA poll.

The Knights have not lost to a WPIAL opponent since Nov. 12, 2016, when they were swept by West Allegheny in the PIAA quarterfinals.

They have dropped only two sets this season but are always looking for improvement. One area Kerkan looks at is playing consistent from start to finish in a match and not having any lulls.

“Consistency within our play is huge,” Kerkan said. “When we played Mars the first time we had a really good game and then a really bad game. That is something that could hurt us, but I also think the highs that we get from good runs allow us to keep pushing forward.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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