Penn-Trafford knocks off Hempfield in Class 3A playoff volleyball classic

Thursday, May 19, 2022 | 11:02 PM

You couldn’t have asked for a better volleyball match than the one between No. 6 Penn-Trafford and No. 3 Hempfield in the WPIAL Class 3A quarterfinals Thursday.

It was a classic battle between Section 3 rivals that went five games before the Warriors stunned the Spartans, 3-2, by scores of 19-25, 25-12, 25-18, 23-25 and 15-13.

In the fifth game, the Warriors rallied from an early deficit to pull it out.

“It was a great match,” Penn-Trafford coach Jim Schall said. “We got hot and played well as a team. It was a great effort.”

Hempfield built a 4-1 lead in the final game and held a 7-4 edge when Penn-Trafford got kills from Patrick Schall and Bryce Little to cut the lead to 7-6. A block by Noah Davis tied the score, and the Warriors took the lead for good 10-9 on a kill by Alex Rugh. It was part of a five-point run that saw the Warriors grab a 13-9 lead.

Andrew Kessler finished it off with a return that sent the Warriors team and fans into a frenzy.

“They played a perfect game,” Hempfield coach John Howell said. “We had a couple unforced errors that cost us. But they are much improved.”

Hempfield defeated Penn-Trafford in both meetings this season, 3-1.

Hempfield won Game 1, 25-19, behind the strong front-line play of Lane Harry, Sean Gordon and Chaz Ewer. Patrick Schall and Rugh were a force for Penn-Trafford.

But Penn-Trafford, behind the efforts of Kessler, Schall, Rugh and Brad Heinbaugh, blitzed Hempfield in Game 2, winning 25-12.

The Spartans had no answer for the 6-foot-5 Kessler. He had five kills.

“Andrew is capable of making things happen,” Schall said. “I put him in late in Game 1, and he had a big hit so I kept him in there. He definitely sparked the others around him.

“Daniel (Tarabrella) also played a great game. We had a lot of players step up.”

Hempfield, the third seed, was out of whack from the start when Penn-Trafford raced out to an 11-2 lead.

Penn-Trafford’s momentum carried into Game 3, and again the Spartans had problems with Kessler’s presence in the middle. Tarabrella chipped in with some big kills as the Warrior won 25-18.

Hempfield never led in Game 2 or 3.

Playing for their playoff lives, the Spartans grabbed a 25-23 win in Game 4. It was Gordon scoring the final three points to rally the Spartans from a 23-22 deficit. Gordon had seven kills during the game.

Schall, Rugh and Tarabrella had big points for the Warriors.

Penn-Trafford will play North Allegheny in Monday’s semifinals.

Shaler tops Norwin

Shaler coach Paul Stadelman called his team’s Class 3A quarterfinal win against Norwin “a team effort.”

The Titans edged the Knights, 3-1, by the scores of 25-22, 25-27, 25-20 and 25-21.

“We did a good job elevating our game defensively,” Stadelman said. “We played well as a team. We met Norwin’s challenge. We had 84 digs. That’s the most this season.”

Zach Miller led the way with 30 digs. Logan Peterson had 18 kills, and Dante Palombo had 11.

“Norwin is a good team,” Stadelman said. “We didn’t know much about them because we had never seen them.”

Norwin coach Mike Palaschak said he expected the match to be close, and it was. The Knights held an early 8-2 lead in Game 4, but the Titans chipped away and caught them 19-19 and then put the match away.

“I truly felt it would go five games, but we fell apart in the fourth game,” Palaschak said. “It was a battle of our ball control and their power, and power won out. Our young guys have to learn from this.”

Shaler moves on to the semifinals on Monday, when it will face Seneca Valley.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at or via Twitter .

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