Norwin volleyball in hunt for section title

Friday, May 4, 2018 | 11:00 PM

Norwin boys volleyball coach Nick Fallone said his players have started calling themselves “the comeback kids,” because of their knack of rallying to win sets after falling behind early.

The latest example was last Tuesday when the Knights were down 19-13 in the third set and came back to win. They've rallied against Hempfield and Penn-Trafford after digging themselves into holes during sets.

The resilience shown in those matches has impressed Fallone, and it's helped the Knights to a 10-1 record and a tie for first place with Penn-Trafford atop the Section 3-AAA standings through last Wednesday. Norwin played Gateway on Thursday, past the deadline for this edition.

It's been fun for the Knights to display their comeback skills during matches, but Fallone is working on remedying the slow starts that have forced them to do so.

As the postseason approaches, they want to trend toward starting strong, because they know playing from behind isn't a good strategy against elite teams.

“We have a lot of fight and spirit in us,” said Fallone, who is in his first year as the head coach after serving five years as an assistant under former coach Al Warden. “We've won a lot of games when we were down, but personally, I'm a little tired of playing from behind.

“Ultimately, we have to figure out how to start a little quicker. It takes us a while to get going. The middle of the game we seem to turn it on, and against good teams that can't happen. Sooner or later, the comebacks are going to run out, so we hope to get that cleaned up.”

Once the Knights get in gear, they turn to a trio of players to set the tone: Jake Williams, a junior outside hitter, A.J. Skweres, a senior setter, and Tanner Cook, a senior libero. Williams leads the team in kills, and Fallone said he has had an “All-WPIAL” type of season. Skweres in considered the team's “quarterback” and he sets the pace for the offense with his passing. Fallone considers Cook the best libero in the WPIAL.

“I think every libero in the WPIAL should model their play and their defensive tenacity after Tanner,” Fallone said. “He's going to go after every ball, and he just has the right mentality for a libero. When the match gets tight, he's going to be there to dig the ball out.”

Fallone said his team is probably one of the smallest teams in the WPIAL, with both of his outside hitters and his opposite hitter at or below 6-foot tall. They don't have anybody who swings for high velocity kills, but they do have players that fight for points. The Knights use sound defense and a good service game to keep teams off balance.

“At the end of the day, two things are true: a point's a point, whether you hit it at 10 feet or 29 feet, and if you keep the ball off the floor you're going to win a lot of volleyball games,” Fallone said. “Height helps, but at the end of the day, you just have to figure out how to control a volleyball.

Norwin and Penn-Trafford were tied atop the standings, and they meet Thursday in the final section game of the year. Norwin defeated the Warriors, 3-1, in the first meeting April 17. If both teams win the two games before the rematch, it will be for the section title.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer.


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