Plum volleyball caps 1st half of section play with key win over Franklin Regional

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Sunday, October 3, 2021 | 11:01 AM


The Plum girls volleyball team ended the first half of Section 1-3A play in a three-way tie for the section lead with Franklin Regional and Indiana.

Each team sported 6-1 records. Franklin Regional defeated Indiana, 3-2, in the section opener for both teams, while the Indians swept Plum, 3-0. Then last Tuesday, Plum topped the defending WPIAL Class 3A champion Panthers, 3-0.

Mustangs coach Kelsey Bonk said the chase for the section title in the second cycle, which, for her team, was to begin last Thursday at Penn Hills, is expected to go down to the wire.

“(The close section race) makes all of the matches a lot of fun and matter that much more,” Bonk said.

“We didn’t have too much time to celebrate the (Franklin Regional) win knowing that we had a lot of important matches ahead of us.”

In addition to the match with Penn Hills, Plum was eyeing last Tuesday’s section rematch with Indiana, which remains in the playoff mix and is in the hunt for section gold after going 9-4 in section play last year.

Indiana, which was to face Franklin Regional on Sept. 30 to start the second cycle, missed the playoffs in 2019.

“We didn’t play well at all the first time against Indiana across every facet,” Bonk said.

“There was not much to take away and say this looked good. Indiana is a solid team, and they forced us into mistakes and took advantage of those mistakes. It was one of those matches where we said, ‘Hey, let’s throw this away and move onto the next one and try to use it as a learning experience.’ You are going to have matches like that sometimes, and it was good as it was kind of a wake-up call for us. But we couldn’t sit there and dwell on it too much as we had a match two days later.”

Plum was able to shake off the Indiana match with a streak of five wins in a row, including a 3-2 triumph over Kiski Area, up to and including the win over Franklin Regional.

The Mustangs downed the Panthers, 25-17, 25-16 and 25-19.

Junior Dannika Susko delivered 10 kills, three blocks and three aces in the victory, while fellow junior Emily Bologna added nine kills.

Bologna is battling through an injury suffered against FR, and Bonk said her status to return to the lineup was not known as of deadline.

Seniors Caroline Hunter (two blocks), Marissa Mamatas (17 assists) and Grace Thompson (15 digs) also were among those contributing to the win over the Panthers.

“That win came down to everyone working together like we expect each match,” Hunter said.

“We just clicked so well. Everything we had been working on in practice came together for a really important win. The environment for the match was just amazing. We really fed off of that.”

Bonk said the third game against Franklin Regional was back and forth, but her team was able to complete the sweep. The Panthers led the third game 15-14 before Plum went on a run to take it from there.

“I was really proud of how we played,” Bonk said. “We executed at a high level and did the fundamentals well. We served tough to make their life a little bit harder. We just did a good job of not shooting ourselves in the foot and avoided a lot of third-ball errors and serving errors. That allowed us to get on some runs in the match. We are really starting to embrace who we are this year and what our style of play has become.

“We’re not the team with the big 10-foot kills. We’re going to be the team that has to continue to serve tough, defend our butts off, and hope the balls fall our way.”

Bonk said that going up 2-0 in the match with Kiski Area and having to hold off the Cavaliers in five games was a benefit to her team for a match such as Franklin Regional.

“It was good to have that experience that just because you go up 2-0 doesn’t mean the match is ours,” she said. “There is still more of the match to be played, and we have to execute. We knew that Franklin Regional wasn’t going to quit.”

Plum and Franklin Regional will meet Oct. 21 to close out the section slate.

“I was so proud of the girls (against Franklin Regional),” senior Julia Chapkis said. “We played our hearts out and held our ground against a really good team.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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