Riverview girls volleyball riding high after defeating No. 8 Apollo-Ridge

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Sunday, September 19, 2021 | 11:01 AM


The Riverview girls volleyball team is not the biggest in terms of roster numbers with just 14 from freshmen to seniors, but the Raiders are playing big so far in the 2021 season.

“We have really worked on trusting each other and trusting the process in everything we do this season,” first-year Raiders coach Emily Konter said.

“These girls are fighting for each other. When you do that, sometimes you get good results. Sometimes it might not be what you hope for, but you can still look at each other and know you did your best. It’s exciting to see where this team can go this year.”

The Raiders sent a message that they will be factor in and out of Section 4-A with a 3-2 victory Sept. 15 over an Apollo-Ridge team that was ranked No. 8 in the Western Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association Class A rankings.

Riverview had won Game 1, 25-23, and outlasted the Vikings, 28-26, in Game 3, rallying from an early five-point deficit.

The match came down to a deciding fifth game to 15.

Apollo-Ridge grabbed an early lead, but Riverview never trailed again after moving ahead 4-3. The game was tied four times, the last time at 13 as the Vikings rallied from a 13-9 deficit.

But the Raiders players kept their cool and tallied the final two points for the 15-13 victory.

“It was a very close match, probably a little closer than we would’ve liked,” senior captain and defensive specialist/libero Julia Ciorra said.

“I was really proud of the team and how we were able to come together and get a really good win to start section play. We were able to keep our cool, especially in those high-stress situations with the match on the line. We were able to play for each point and not get caught up in the big picture. That kind of thing should really help us as we continue through the season.”

Fellow senior captain and middle hitter Maddie Deem said that despite not having a lot of players in the rotation, they were able to still hang tough through a long five sets.

“For us to play five sets, we have to rely on our fitness and pull through,” she said. “A lot of us were pretty tired at the end, but we made sure we hung on for each other. I was really proud of us all for that.”

Junior outside/middle hitter Alex Bibza led Riverview with 10 kills in the match with Apollo-Ridge, while Deem added eight kills. Ciorra paced the defense with 19 digs, and senior setter Julia Franciscus contributed 11 assists.

Riverview hopes to challenge for a WPIAL playoff spot after going 3-9 (sixth place) in the section last year. The top four teams make the playoffs.

Riverview hosts St. Joseph on Thursday.

“Me not being from the area and being in triple-A the last couple of years, I am not as familiar with most of the teams we’re facing,” said Konter, the head coach at Class AAA Laurel Highlands the past four seasons.

“For me, every team is a big challenge. That is the approach we have to take. We can’t take any team lightly. We are expecting tough competition. We were seven players strong going into the Apollo-Ridge match, and that’s a lot of work to play five sets. But the girls kept their heads and played hard the whole match.”

The Raiders kicked off the dual- match portion of the season Sept. 13 against Northgate, and they swept the Flames, 3-0, with game scores of 25-12, 25-10 and 25-18.

Bibza led the way with eight kills, and Deem finished with five aces and 12 service points.

Ciorra rounded out the effort on defense with 10 digs while adding four aces and nine service points.

“The Northgate match was another confidence boost that showed us we are moving in the right direction,” Konter said.

Konter, a Brownsville native who played volleyball for the Falcons before doing the same at Penn State Fayette, took over the program in early August, shortly before the start of preseason practices.

Samantha Taylor stepped down as head coach after two seasons with the Raiders.

“The veteran players really helped me get up to speed with everything, and they also have been great with helping the younger players understand that the better they get, the better the whole team becomes,” Konter said.

“They got right to it. Whatever was asked of them, they did it. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of girls to coach.”

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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