Penn-Trafford boys volleyball gets past Hempfield in ‘classic match’

Thursday, April 13, 2023 | 10:28 PM

Jim Schall has coached in some intense and high-quality high school volleyball settings during his considerable time on the bench, but he ranked Thursday night’s Penn-Trafford-Hempfield match right up with the best of them.

Schall’s Penn-Trafford Warriors came away with a 3-1 home victory that was tougher than it appeared.

The second-ranked Warriors needed overtime in two games to put away the decision and end the seventh-ranked Spartans’ six-match winning streak.

Hempfield’s lone victory also ended in overtime.

“That was a classic match,” Schall said. “I’ve coached a long time. The action at key times was tremendous. There were so many good plays right there in the last three or four points.”

Brad Heinbaugh recorded 15 kills and Keith Otto added 12 to lead Penn-Trafford (6-1, 4-0) to the WPIAL Section 3-3A victory by scores of 26-24, 25-27, 25-17 and 28-26.

“We had some chances to maybe open things up a little bit at times,” Schall said. “Thats where we’re at right now. Give Hempfield credit too. We really had to work.”

Logan Swartz finished with 18 digs and Daniel Tarabrella assisted on 48 points for Penn-Trafford.

Drew Gordon led Hempfield (6-2, 3-1) with 14 kills. Josh Reilly contributed 12 blocks for the Spartans, who wasted a 23-18 lead in the first set and wound up dropping the two-point decision to go down, 1-0.

But they came back for two-point victory in the second game to pull even before Penn-Trafford handily won the third game and clinched the victory with a “classic” ending in the fourth.

“They’re a good team,” Schall said of Hempfield, which owns a victory over No. 4 Norwin earlier this season. “They lost some of their big guys from last year, and I think people expected them to be a little down. But they’re athletic. We’re pretty good, and they gave us everything we could handle. That was a great match.”

Hempfield was dealing with several players who were battling some illness, including senior Owen Kelley, the Spartans’ leader. At the end of the match, Kelley sprawled on the floor before sitting up for several minutes as trainers attended to him.

“He’s OK. We have at least three players who are a bit under the weather. It’s going around our team,” Hempfield coach John Howell said.

Kelley gave a thumbs-up to several well-wishers after emerging from the locker room.

Howell said he continues to enjoy his current team’s efforts, saying he’s “absolutely pleasantly surprised” by his team’s fight.

“This was a good confidence-booster that we can play at the upper level,” he said. “But our inexperience tonight showed through. It’s a hard gym to play in because it’s a little smaller than some. The crowd is up on top of you. They’re a tall team.”

Hempfield again lost a sizeable lead in the fourth game, allowing Penn-Trafford to come back from 20-14 down to tie it at 24-24 before the Warriors went on to the win.

“Things we just didn’t do well yet as a younger team is when it came down to crunch points, we played conservative and they played aggressive,” Howell said. “But with only one senior on the floor, it’s a great learning tool for us. It shows we can play with the best in the section.”

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