Senior-led Leechburg girls volleyball turns focus to playoffs

Sunday, October 20, 2019 | 6:50 PM

The best word to describe Leechburg girls volleyball in matches against the two teams in front of them in the Section 4-A standings is “close.”

The Blue Devils took Vincentian Academy and Greensburg Central Catholic to five sets in the second meeting with each team this season before falling.

The rematches were an improvement, and Leechburg coach Eve Hebrank feels her team is playing its best at the right time.

Now the Blue Devils hope they can carry their run of strong play into the playoffs, where a senior-laden group is eager to break through with a victory after losing in the first round the past two years.

“We can taste it, but then it’s just not there,” Hebrank said. “But it proves how competitive the top three teams in our section are. We went with Vincentian to the end and GCC to the end. That shows that it can be anyone’s night.”

Leechburg had three consecutive matches last week starting with Greensburg Central Catholic on Tuesday. The Blue Devils won a thrilling fourth set 28-26 over the Centurions, but lost the decider 15-7.

For the past three years Leechburg has been aiming to take down Greensburg Central Catholic and even though the Blue Devils fell short, the match was an enjoyable experience akin to the atmosphere of a postseason match.

“It was crazy. Their gym was packed,” senior outside hitter Maddie Ancosky said. “There were people screaming on their side, and people screaming on our side. It was an intense game. We all played our hearts out.”

Hebrank is hopeful the close results with the section’s top teams will help their standing when the WPIAL pairings are released Monday.

“I hope they take it into consideration,” Hebrank said. “My thoughts on the WPIAL and its seeding have not always been positive, but I hope they recognize that our section as a whole is kind of underrated at times. People forget we play ball as hard as anyone else.”

Leechburg went on to score 3-0 sweeps of Riverview and St. Joseph on Wednesday and Thursday to finish section play with a 10-4 record.

Ancosky is part of an experienced and senior-filled lineup that includes fellow outside hitter and team captain Brenna Callahan, middle hitters Ava Powell and Ashley Grine and libero Gracie Reinke. Junior setter McKenna Pierce is also a key member of the lineup.

“We’ve been playing together so long that its very upsetting for it to be close to over, so we don’t want to be done just yet,” Reinke said.

Callahan and Ancosky provide strong options on the outsides. Ancosky had 13 kills in the win over Riverview and a dozen in the GCC loss. Callahan was under the weather most of the week, but still managed six kills and six aces from the service line, while sitting out the third set of the Riverview win.

“I like to call Brenna and Maddie my 1-2 punch,” Hebrank said. “I trust that they are going to play solid and place the ball smartly every time they are out there. Having them opposite of each and Gracie controlling the back row is a key component to our team.”

Leechburg last won a playoff game in 2013, 3-0 over Brentwood in the preliminary round. The last time the Blue Devils advanced to the quarterfinals was in 2005 when Hebrank was a sophomore playing on the team and the late Ellen Toy was the coach. It would be a big moment for the program if they can break the streak and make a playoff run.

“To make it to the quarterfinals with this group would most definitely mean everything,” Herbank said.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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