Knoch volleyball maintains togetherness as PIAA title push rolls on
By: Jerin Steele
Friday, November 9, 2018 | 6:00 PM
Prior to practice Thursday, Knoch girls volleyball coach Diane Geist served pancakes to her players.
Geist has an agreement with her team that she will make them anytime someone makes a pancake dig in a match, and Kenzie Kerkan delivered in Tuesday’s 3-1 win over Elizabeth Forward.
Kerkan sprawled on more than one occasion with her palm on the floor, getting the back of her hand under the ball to keep play alive.
Geist made pancakes last year as well, and the team felt good about keeping the tradition going. It was a nice reward, and it allowed for some reflection on their journey this season.
“It was really cool,” Kerkan said. “We all went around the table and said what we were thankful for, even Coach Geist. We are thankful to have each other and to still be in the playoffs even if people may have doubted us at the beginning of the season since we lost six seniors.”
The Knights have proven time and again what they are capable of this season, and they will continue their PIAA Class AAA title defense when they play District 3’s Dover in the quarterfinals Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Hollidaysburg.
Knoch has plenty of athletes who make life difficult on opponents, and there also is a sense of togetherness that permeates the team. The entire group stayed after practice Thursday to hang out for an extra 15 minutes before heading home.
“We have a lot of fun together, but at the same time, we can be serious and I think that is what gives us a strong bond,” Kerkan said. “We can switch back and forth from being goofy and fun to being serious and getting stuff done.”
Knoch (23-0) is riding a 47-match winning streak dating to last season, and with a streak like that, the players understand they are a target for everyone they play. They got a taste of that Tuesday when Elizabeth Forward pushed them in three of the four sets. In the fourth set, both teams had set point on multiple occasions before Knoch prevailed.
It gave them perspective of what to expect moving forward.
“It kind of helped us realize where we are at right now,” outside hitter Skye Burkett said. “These are teams that are competing with us. There isn’t really an easy one out there for us the rest of the way. When it is game point back and forth like it was (Tuesday), that’s a pretty crazy situation to be in. We powered through it, though, so that shows us what we are made out of.”
Dover (16-7), the third-place team in District 3, dispatched District 5 champion Somerset, 3-1, in the first round. Knoch swept Somerset in the PIAA first round last year.
The Eagles were the No. 6 seed in the District 3 tournament but upset No. 3 York Suburban in the quarterfinals and topped No. 4 Garden Spot in the consolation game to earn their PIAA spot.
Dover outside hitter Emma Davis, a senior, was voted by York-Adams League coaches as the Division I player of the year. Setter Abby Diehl, a senior, was voted first team, and another senior, outside hitter Chayce Hoffman, made the second team.
Davis had 17 kills in the win over Somerset, and junior middle hitter Frankie White had 13 kills and six aces.
The Knights have some information on Dover, but at this time of year, they are more concerned with fine-tuning their own play.
“It’s more about what you can do and making sure that you do everything you can to win,” junior middle hitter Kennedy Christy said. “No matter who is on the other side of the court, you should worry about making smart plays, hustling for the ball and getting your serve in.
“We have to go into games knowing that teams are going to want to beat us and not thinking that we’re good enough to roll through them. It kind of motivates us to show everyone that we are the No. 1 team by how we play.”
Jerin Steele is a freelance writer.