Knoch tops Montour for 1st WPIAL girls volleyball championship

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Saturday, November 4, 2017 | 8:12 PM


Dianne Geist has been coaching the Knoch girls volleyball program for 31 years, and after a long road she and her Knights reached the pinnacle Saturday.

Behind 24 kills from Sarah Armahizer and 14 kills by Hannah Rowe, No. 1 Knoch won its first WPIAL Class AAA girls volleyball title with a 3-1 win over Montour at Baldwin.

Kennedy Christy had a kill bounce off a Montour defender to clinch the match with a 25-16 win in the fourth set and gave Geist a long-awaited title.

“It's such a great honor just to have the chance to be here,” said Armahizer about winning Knoch's first volleyball title. “To win it for coach and for all of us, it is an amazing feeling.

Geist gave credit to the girls for following through on their goals.

“We have nice depth this year,” Geist said. “We had strong hitters, and we didn't have a weak rotation at any spot. I attribute this to the girls and them holding together. We had a stairway to states where we had levels to accomplish. We had a little stepladder between section champs and winning WPIAL's. We climbed each step. I'm pretty happy for them.”

The first set featured back-and-forth action with neither team gaining more than a three-point advantage. With the score tied at 23, Knoch forced a Montour hitting error, and then Christy had a kill to end the set.

“Our serve-receive broke down there at the end of the first set,” Montour coach Mike Marchionda said. “That got us out of system and we were giving them free balls, and they have the weaponry that they're going to get a good swing every time. Knoch was the better team. They deserved to win tonight.”

Armahizer and Rowe took over in the second, with multiple kills apiece that allowed Knoch to go on several long runs en route to a 25-9 victory.

“They're just strong hitters,” said Geist about Rowe and Armahizer. “Sarah got frustrated a couple times because they were double blocking her, but I thought she played really well considering. Hannah has been kind of a dark horse this year. She's been getting better and better. She really didn't play much varsity for us last year, so she's really doing well for us.”

Things were going so well for Knoch, in between the second and third set the players started dancing to “YMCA” when the song came on over the PA system.

Montour, which was seeking its first title since 1973, didn't go away quietly. The Spartans accrued an 18-12 lead before holding off a late Knoch rally to earn a 27-25 win in the third set.

Knoch rebounded though by jumping out to a 5-1 lead in the fourth. The Knights pushed the lead to as high as eight with kills from Rowe and a couple of blocks by Abby Kopac. Knoch never trailed in the fourth set.

Both teams advance to the PIAA tournament, which begins Tuesday. Thomas Jefferson defeated West Allegheny, 3-2, in the consolation match and also advanced to the state tournament.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer.

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