Knoch volleyball impressed with PIAA semifinal opponent Warren

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Monday, November 12, 2018 | 9:09 PM


A few minutes after Knoch finished its 3-0 victory over Dover in the PIAA quarterfinals on Saturday, Knights coach Diane Geist learned their next opponent, Warren, swept Thomas Jefferson earlier in the day.

She was impressed.

“It sounds like this Warren team is pretty good,” She said. “For them to beat (Thomas Jefferson) in three (sets) … I mean, that’s pretty good.”

Geist knew how tough Thomas Jefferson was because of the battle the Knights had with the Jaguars in each set of their 3-0 win in the WPIAL Class AAA championship.

The information and film on Warren seen by Geist in the last couple of days reaffirmed the Knights have a difficult opponent standing between them and a return trip to the state finals.

The defending state champion Knights face Warren, the District 10 champion, in the PIAA Class AAA semifinals, 7 p.m. Tuesday at Clarion.

Warren won a District 10 title for the first time in program history this season and features a standout middle hitter in 5-foot-10 senior Lydia Latimer.

Latimer, a Cleveland State recruit, had 15 kills and seven blocks in the win over Thomas Jefferson on Saturday.

“It should be an interesting matchup,” Geist said. “(Latimer) attacks from all different areas of the net, so that’s something we’re going to have to watch. Their setter (Alexis Nyquist) makes nice sets out of whatever passes she gets, so they are able to run a pretty quick offense.”

The set scores for Knoch and Warren’s victories over Thomas Jefferson were similar. Aside from the Jaguars, the two teams have one other common postseason opponent in Central Valley and again the set scores were similar in each team’s victory. Knoch also went 2-0 against Central Valley in the regular season.

Warren (20-0) is on a similar path to what Knoch did last year. They won their first district title and have followed by making the deepest PIAA playoff run in theprogram history. They’re also doing it with a senior-laden lineup, like Knoch did last season.

The Dragons have five seniors, including outside hitter Celia Chase, opposite hitter Ellie Lobdell and libero Julia Lobdell.

Knoch (24-0) hasn’t slowed down from last season’s success with a lineup consisting of mostly juniors, aside from senior setter Kerrie Fitzpatrick. The Knights own a 48-match winning streak and are excited to be a step from reaching back-to-back state finals.

“It was my goal at the beginning of the season to get back (to the PIAA championship),” Knoch junior outside hitter Skye Burkett said. “I told my friends, ‘You watch we’ll make it back.’ I guess we’re proving ourselves again, and we’re one step away.”

Burkett played a big part in helping Knoch reach the semifinals, with a team-best 12 kills in Saturday’s win over Dover. Paired with Kennedy Christy and Hannah Rowe, Burkett adds another dynamic to the front row. It gives Fitzpatrick options and makes the offense a challenge to defend.

“If all the hitters are on we have a pretty strong offense and against a really good team we’re going to need that,” Geist said. “We’re going to need our offense, good blocking, good defense and good serving. We’re going to need pretty much need everything.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer.

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