Knoch volleyball back to full strength in first-round PIAA win over South Fayette

Tuesday, November 5, 2019 | 10:16 PM

The last time Kennedy Christy was in the Shaler gym, she was injured on the final night of the regular season in a nonsection match against the Titans and it caused her to miss Knoch’s entire WPIAL playoff run.

Christy was cleared to play Monday and made her return on the same Shaler court in the first round of the PIAA playoffs Tuesday night.

Naturally, she was a little bit nervous, but in the end, she and her Knights teammates didn’t have much to worry about. The Knights cruised to a 3-0 victory over South Fayette.

Kennedy came into the match in the second set and had five kills.

“It was a little nerve wracking at first because I thought, ‘What if I get hurt again and what if this gym has bad vibes for me?’ but it was great to shake the rust off,” Christy said. “I was glad to get back out there with the team.”

After seeing Christy sit out for all four rounds of the WPIAL playoffs, Knoch coach Diane Geist was excited to have her back on the floor.

“I’m happy for her because she was really bummed out that she couldn’t play in the WPIAL final on Saturday,” Knoch coach Diane Geist said. “I’m glad she gets to play again.”

Knoch advanced to play Franklin Regional in the quarterfinals at a site and time to be announced. The Knights defeated the Panthers, 3-0, in the WPIAL semifinals.

Skylar Burkett had 11 kills and three aces to pace the Knights. Hannah Rowe had 10 kills and an ace and Morgan Frishkorn had four kills.

The Knights (22-1) won 25-11, 25-18, 25-20 and only trailed three times in the match. All three instances were when South Fayette (16-3) scored the first point each set.

Knoch got strong net play from the middle hitters in the first set, accumulating five blocks for points between Kate McCarty and Quinn Hughes. For the match, Knoch had 15 blocks.

“It can really get into a hitter’s head when you can block like that,” Geist said. “One of our sayings is, ‘Influence the competition,’ and when you block somebody back like that several times, it can really get in their heads.”

Burkett had a strong second set, including three service aces in a span where Knoch went on an 8-0 run to take an 8-1 lead.

“She’s been solid for us and she’s one of the big hitters that kept us going,” Geist said. “We relied on her a lot when (Rowe and Christy were out).”

Knoch led by as many as 11 in the third set before a late 7-0 run from South Fayette cut the lead to 24-20. Christy stopped the run with a cross-court kill to clinch the match.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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