No steps backward for Norwin volleyball

Friday, October 4, 2019 | 6:53 PM

The Norwin girls volleyball team entered the season as a relative unknown.

The team returned only one starter from last season’s team — senior middle hitter Victoria Nicholes. With only four seniors total, the staff turned to a junior class and underclassmen lacking varsity experience.

This uncertainty led to some maybe underestimating the Knights, but Norwin has proven the doubters wrong. The team is 10-1 overall and 7-1 in Section 3-AAAA.

The Knights were No. 9 in Class AAAA in the latest Western Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association rankings.

“I knew we had a good group of girls who love the game and work hard,” coach Mary Ellen Ferragonio said. “I hoped they would do well because I knew they had potential. We’re still coming together. There are some inconsistencies. But with their love of the game and attitudes, I know I was lucky to get this group.”

Nicholes has been a major force for the team and is using her experience to guide the Knights. Norwin has also turned to its three other seniors for production. Defensive specialist Amanda Lee, outside hitter Juliana Boyd and middle hitter Cassie Cole have been a calming presence for the Knights.

“All four seniors have taken on the leadership role,” Ferragonio said. “They lead by example, work hard and give advice when needed to help build up the other players.”

With only the four seniors on the roster, Norwin has turned to a nine-player junior class. While they came in lacking varsity experience, the juniors have improved their abilities throughout the season.

“They have really stepped up and are playing with confidence,” Ferragonio said. “They’re working hard at filling their roles. Last year’s team set a really good example of what it takes to work as a team. The girls stepped right in with that mindset.”

Abby Lichtenfels has been successful in the setter role. The junior has worked well with junior back-row players Dylan Amic and Jordan Stein along with Lee.

The hitter roles have continued to grow. On the right side, junior Rachel Sullivan has been solid. Boyd has also seen time at the position. The outside hitter spot has had a rotation of four players — juniors Mara Polczysnki, MacKenzie Yaniga and Brooke Gast along with Boyd.

“Our outside hitters have shown constant improvement,” Ferragonio said. “As a whole, we are improving together and are trying to work together as a team.”

While the team has continued to excel on the court, Norwin’s fortunes receive a boost from the camaraderie the players share.

“They pick each other up,” Ferragonio said. “They are trying to stay positive. If they make an error, they move onto the next play. They are focused on helping each other.”

While they have risen to the top of the section standings, the Knights still have a second swing through the schedule. Games against Hempfield, Penn-Trafford and Connellsville will all be tests.

“They know the games ahead will be tough,” Ferragonio said. “There are no easy matches. They are only going to get harder.”


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