Knoch volleyball sweeps Franklin Regional to move into state semifinals

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Saturday, November 9, 2019 | 8:39 PM


The Knoch girls volleyball team swept Franklin Regional when the teams met in the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals last week.

The Panthers hoped to turn the tables on the Knights as they faced off again Saturday, this time with a berth in the PIAA semifinals on the line.

But Knoch, behind its versatile attack, prevented Franklin Regional from developing much momentum and cruised to a 3-0 victory at Shaler.

“We knew Franklin Regional was going to come in with a good gameplan,” said senior Skylar Burkett, who had a team-best 12 kills against the Panthers. “We just had to stay strong mentally and play our game.”

Knoch, which improved to 21-1, will face a new challenge in District 3 champion Palmyra on Tuesday at a site and time to be determined.

The Cougars (23-0) quashed a WPIAL finals rematch with a 3-1 victory over WPIAL runner-up Thomas Jefferson on Saturday in Altoona.

“I am pretty excited for the girls,” Knoch coach Diane Geist said. “Palmyra has some really good hitters, and they are solid all the way around. We’re looking forward to Tuesday. It should be a really good match.”

The Knights are looking for redemption after falling short in last year’s semifinal round.

“I think that’s been in the back of our minds all season, but it wasn’t something we put out on the table,” senior Hannah Rowe said. “We felt that if we concentrated on each game as it came, we would be able to do what we needed to do to get back to the semifinals. We played really well today, and I feel good about our chances (Tuesday).”

Franklin Regional, in the PIAA playoffs for the first time, concludes its season at 17-2. The Panthers arrived at Saturday’s game with momentum after their four-set triumph over Conneaut in the first round.

“We got out of our normal passing game (against Knoch) after we were spot on the other night against a really good jump-serving team,” Franklin Regional coach Mike Feorene said. “We also didn’t have the normal defensive prowess that we had for a while now.

“I take nothing away from Knoch. They have hitters coming from everywhere. We had to keep adapting, and they just kept coming at us.”

Knoch established a lead quickly in Game 1, and a Quinn Hughes kill and a pair of aces from Burkett extended the advantage to 15-8.

A Rory McCune kill gave the Knights their largest lead of the game at 22-11, and a Burkett hit that fell between several Franklin Regional players finished a 25-15 victory.

Knoch scored the first four points of Game 2 and withstood a Panthers rally attempt from the likes of senior middle hitter Hannah Flick and junior middle hitter Aly Kindelberger.

Rowe delivered five kills in the game, and her final one capped a 25-16 triumph.

A kill from Knoch senior Kennedy Christy snapped a 6-6 tie in Game 3. The Knights didn’t look back from there in a 25-15 win that concluded with a kill from junior Kate McCarty.

Christy finished with 11 kills and 12 digs. Rowe had nine kills and eight blocks, junior Morgan Jack recorded 12 service points and 21 assists, and senior libero Kenzie Kerkan had 12 digs.

“We made some really nice plays, especially in that third set,” Geist said. “When these girls are on, it’s hard to stop them. We don’t have a weak rotation right now. Each rotation has at least one strong hitter.”

Kindelberger led Franklin Regional with 14 kills.

“It wasn’t our best performance of the year today, but, overall, I am proud of everything they did because they got here in the first place,” Feorene said. “They finished as one of the top eight teams in Triple-A. I think right now, everyone knows that Franklin Regional is a contender, and, hopefully, we can make it back next year.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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