WPIAL Girls Volleyball Semifinals Thursday Recaps 2014

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Thursday, October 30, 2014 | 11:25 PM


Coming into the Final Four, two of the three top-seeds were still alive as were all three defending champs. One champ and one #1-seed were eliminated all in the same match as Freeport was knocked off, guaranteeing a new champion would be crowned in Class AA. Here are recaps from all six Semifinals matches Thursday in the 2014 WPIAL Girls Volleyball Playoffs.

A special thanks to Cory Campano, Randy Gore, Mike Azadian, Bob Orkwis, Sean Meyers and Brandon Showers for their help on these recaps.

WPIAL CLASS AAA Semifinals:

North Allegheny Tigers 3 – Mount Lebanon Blue Devils 0 
Eighth-seeded North Allegheny will appear in the Class AAA WPIAL title match for the second consecutive season as the Tigers swept the fourth-seeded Mt. Lebanon Blue Devils, 3-0, at Baldwin High School on Thursday night. Atoning for an earlier loss to Mt. Lebanon on September 8, the reigning champions claimed this WPIAL semifinal matchup by set scores of 25-23, 25-18, and 25-22. The opening set was a test of wills that was nip and tuck throughout.  The Tigers held a narrow 23-22 lead but outlasted the Blue Devils thanks in large part to University of Notre Dame recruit Meg Morningstar. The NA senior collected five kills and three blocks in the set, including game point to give the Tigers a 25-23 in game one.  Mt. Lebanon, just two years removed from a WPIAL title of its own, hung tough with the Tigers courtesy of sophomore Katherine Peters and senior Alexa Pavlik.  Peters collected five kills in set one, while Pavlik notched four kills and a block. In set two, the Tigers jumped out to an 18-10 lead and kept the Blue Devils at arm’s length to hold on for a 25-18 win.  The third set was much closer, but Morningstar jammed the middle with five blocks and two kills to finish off Mt. Lebanon, 25-22. North Allegheny advances to the Class AAA title match against the second-seeded Baldwin Highlanders on Saturday night.  Start time is slated for 6:00 pm at Baldwin High School.

Baldwin Highlanders 3 – Seneca Valley Raiders 2
In a thrilling back-and-forth match between two equally talented and competitive teams, the Baldwin Highlanders edged the Seneca Valley Raiders 3-2 in Class AAA semifinals action at North Allegheny High School. As a result, the No. 2 seed Highlanders advance to the WPIAL Class AAA Championship game on Saturday, held on their home court at Baldwin High School. Baldwin captured the victory 16-25, 25-18, 24-26, 26-24 and 15-9, earning the right to face No. 8 seed and defending champion North Allegheny in the title match. The opening set belonged to the Raiders, as third-seeded Seneca Valley took a 3-2 lead that it would never relinquish, as a 6-0 run put SV ahead 8-2.  As the set progressed, the Highlanders would trim their deficit to four, but Seneca Valley used a five-point run to take a commanding 21-12 advantage. After an error at the scorer’s table went in favor of the Raiders, SV cruised to a 25-16 victory to notch the first set. Baldwin would respond, though, as the Highlanders took an early lead in set two, and would never trail. Seneca Valley continued to battle back, however, and deadlocked the score at 9-9 and again at 12-12. The Highlanders regained their edge, though, and scored four straight points at the end to secure the set. The third and fourth sets produced two incredibly dramatic finishes, as Baldwin carried the momentum from its second set into the early part of the third set. The lead would be short-lived for the purple-clad squad, though, as SV battled back to tie, and briefly take a one-point lead. Baldwin would again regain control, however, and held that advantage up to set point, at 24-20. A furious rally by the Raiders evened the score at 24-24, though, and SV finished the comeback bid by scoring the final two points as part of a 6-0 run to win the crucial third set in extra play. The fourth set followed a nearly identical pattern, as Baldwin again controlled the majority of the set, holding leads of 17-10 and 20-15. The Raiders again showed their resolve, though, and a furious rally allowed SV to deadlock the set at 23-23 and 24-24. Baldwin wrote a different ending to this set, though, as the Highlanders scored the last two points to force a decisive fifth set. After the squads exchanged blows to a 4-4 tie, the Highlanders took the lead, and never looked back. With the crowd in a frenzy, Baldwin finally sealed the victory with an 11-5 run to finish the contest.
The sister duo of Tori and Maddi Sgattoni paced the Highlanders in the victory. Additionally, senior libero Sarah Welsh and junior defensive specialist Hannah Scott provided a spark defensively for Baldwin. Baldwin first-year head coach Chris Kelly also pointed to the play of junior hitter Mackenzie Voelker as a key reason for the Highlanders’ success. On the other side of the net, senior hitter Sydney Martini keyed the Raiders’ attack with her incredible skill and athleticism around the net. Seneca Valley turned to Martini for nearly all of its big shots down the stretch, and she usually answered. Also, junior Madeline Poirier provided significant contributions for SV, as did senior libero Breanna Damiani. With the victory, Baldwin clinches a spot in the PIAA postseason, while Seneca Valley will battle Mount Lebanon on Saturday in a consolation match, with the winner qualifying for the third spot in the Class AAA PIAA playoffs.

WPIAL CLASS AA Semifinals:

Ford City Sabers 3 – Freeport Yellowjackets 1 
“We want to go out with a bang” said senior hitter Christina Davis after the match and go out with a bang they’ll have the chance to do.  Ford City upset the defending champion Freeport Yellowjackets 3-1 tonight in WPIAL Girls AA Volleyball Playoffs.  The Sabers used their ability and heart to lead them to a win.  Freeport who has managed to become a force to be reckoned with due in part to stellar play by players like Zoe Pawlak was never really able to get on a roll.  The Yellowjackets took the first game 25-21 and it seemed as if the defending champs would be able to beat the Sabers.  They lead most of that game and when they did trail it was by no more than one point.  Pawlak had 10 kills in game one and senior hitter Jess Kelly had 3 to compliment her counterpart.  The problem was Ford City was feeling a wave coming and they rode that the next three games.  In games two, three, and four the Sabers were able to prevent a huge Freeport run much in part by keeping their stars off the service line. Freeport by many accounts goes as their stars go and no player shone more bright through the season than Zoe Pawlak. Pawlak finished the match with 30 kills and if you would have told coach Tom Phillips his hitter would end with 30 kills he may have told you his team won. Ford City though kept Pawlak, Karlie Hill, and Jess Kelley among others off the service line for long runs.  The momentum shifter was Pawlak in games two and three not going on more than a 2 point run at the service line.  Ford City’s Justyne Lasher was not to be out done by her junior counter part finishing with 16 kills along with Christina Davis having 14 for the Lady Sabers.  Lasher was also a presence late at the service line in the last match getting two aces. In the second game it took extra volleyball to decide it. The second match ended with a score of 27-25 for the Lady Sabers and you could almost sense the upset in the air. They had handed Freeport their first lost set of the playoffs and it seemed as if Ford City had something special there. Out came the third game and that is where Ford City was able to put a stop to Freeport’s run beating them at the net. Jess Kelly had to take over for the Yellowjackets and lead them with seven kills in the third game. Pawlak only had five and Ford City took it 25-22. After that it seemed as if Freeport knew that Ford City was just too much for them to handle. In game four Ford City never trailed and only played to one tie. Freeport had to burn a time out early in the set when the Sabers went on a 5-0 run. That run was aided much by the play of Justyne Lasher’s younger sister Kenzie Lasher a freshman in the libero jersey. Kenzie didn’t show up much on the score sheet but her defensive ability was present making multiple big time plays in the back line.  Both Lasher girls have a very deep tie to this team as their mother Andrea Lasher is the coach. After plays that both Lasher girls as well as the Sabers team made that almost seemed impossible Coach Lasher was seen grinning from ear to ear. She seemed to know her team was going to accomplish the near impossible defeating the favored Yellowjackets and continue their historic run. Both teams will go to the PIAA playoffs and Ford City will go on to play Thomas Jefferson another team that by standings is favored in the match up. It’s bigger though for the Lady Sabers as in their last year as a school they have now managed to accomplish four daunting tasks that have never been done in Ford City girls volleyball history, their first section title – check, their first trip to the semi-finals – check, their first semi final win – check, their first trip to PIAA – check, their first WPIAL Title – ?????

Thomas Jefferson Jaguars 3 – Beaver Bobcats 0 
It seems that way may have been considered a small Cinderella story has come to an end for the Beaver Bobcats.  They ran into a tough Thomas Jefferson team, who stayed undefeated, as they trounce the Bobcats in three straight sets (25-14, 25-20, 25-15).  TJ not only won in straight sets but looked impressive doing so. The big story was the front line of Thomas Jefferson led by Senior Rachel Stover and Junior Kayla Smith.  The combination of Stover’s loud kills, and Smith’s ability to read the Beaver set up and block multiple spike attempts, were simply too much for the lady bobcats to compete with.  Sydney Caruso of Beaver had more than a few diving digs and stood out as the hustle player.  The bobcats never gave up and fought hard just to get this point, as they were the #11 seed making it to the semifinals.  Beaver left Baldwin High School’s gymnasium disappointed, yet not fully beaten as they left with their pride intact and hopeful for the future. TJ will move on as they duel the winner of Freeport/Ford City.  That game is also being played tonight.  The Jags are anxiously waiting for the weekend.  They will ride to Baldwin with confidence and expectation seeing as they won the quarter and semifinals on the same court.  Head Coach Ron Kelly was all smiles tonight as TJ moves on to the title game in convincing fashion.  The scene is set. Saturday November 1st @ 3:30 pm.  The AA WPIAL Girls Volleyball Championship takes place at Baldwin High School.

WPIAL CLASS A Semifinals:

Bishop Canevin Crusaders 3 – Neshannock Lancers 0 
Bishop Canevin earned the chance to defend its WPIAL Girls Class A Volleyball Championship with a straight set win over the 5th seeded Lancers tonight at North Allegheny High School (3-0) – 25-20 – 25-5 – 25-9. The first game was the closest of the evening but Neshannock’s trouble with serve return put the Crusaders in front 24-13. But to the Lancers credit, they made a great run scoring 7 straight points to close within 4 points, but Bishop Canevin took the last point to win the opening game by 5. That was it for the drama in Wexford as the Crusaders jumped out to leads of 6-0 and 17-2 to coast to the win in game two. Neshannock opened the third game 2-0 only to see Bishop Canevin answer with a 7 point run and the Crusaders never looked back, closing out the final game and the match by recording 6 of the last 7 points to advance to the Single A title game for the 3rd consecutive season. Junior outside hitter Erin Cunningham paced the Crusaders in the win recording 13 kills, 4 aces and 23 digs. Fellow junior hitter Julie Menosky added 8 kills and 15 digs to go along with 4 aces of her own. Bailey McDonald led Bishop Canevin with 28 assists and the junior recorded 4 aces. Senior Maggie Frost had 17 digs on the defensive side for the Crusaders while Sarah Temple finished with 2 kills and 3 blocks in the victory. Bishop Canevin, the top seed in the tournament, improved to (24-1) on the year. Neshannock, the co-section champions from Section 3(A), saw its season stall for a second consecutive year in the semifinals. But the Lancers have a chance to qualify for the PIAA playoffs for the second straight year as they will face their section rival Shenango in a consolation match on Saturday at Baldwin High School. The Wildcats, the other co-section champion, and the Lancers split the season series this year, with each team gaining (3-0) victories. The Crusaders head back to Baldwin to try and capture their 2nd WPIAL Girls Volleyball Title against an old familiar foe – the Greensburg Central Catholic Centurions. Last year, Bishop Canevin defeated GCC (3-2) to win the title and in 2012, the Centurions beat the Crusaders (3-0) to capture the gold medal. Saturday’s title tilt can be heard as part of Championship Saturday coverage right here on the MSA Sports Network.

Greensburg Central Catholic Centurions 3 – Shenango Wildcats 0
At Fox Chapel high school in the WPIAL Girls single A semi finals, the second seeded Greensburg Central Catholic Centurions defeat the sixth seed the Shenago Wildcats 3-0. Game scores were 25-17,26-24, 25-16.  The Centurions led all the way in game one with only a tie at 1-1. At 15-12 they would rattle off 6 points in a row to lead 21-12 and cruise to a 25-17 win. The Wildcats had 7 unforced errors, and Megan Stunja and Leah Bisignani had 4 kills each for GCC to lead the way.  Game two was close all the way as the Wildcats came out strong and led early. Up 5-1 they held the lead with solid play on defense, and mistake free at the net. Up 14-9 though Shenango fell apart as GCC reeled off 10 points of 11 to take a 19-15 lead. The Wildcats would come back to tie at 24-24 but GCC took advantage of 2 Shenango errors and won 26-24. Bisignani again would lead the way with 6 kills to ignite the GCC offense on the way to the game two win.  It was all Centurions in game three. The Wildcats were competitive early and trailed 8-5 when GCC took off scoring 9 in a row to grow the lead to twelve at 17-5, and score 12 of 13 to go up 20-6 on the way to a 25-16 win in game three. Stunja with 5 kills led the offense in the easy win.  The Centurions had 40 kills in the match with Bisignani with 13 and Stunja with 12. Bisignani had 2 aces on service to lead the team. Marie Gonsar led the Wildcats with 8 kills of the teams 21 on the game.  Greensburg Central Catholic will take on the top seeded  and defending WPIAL single A champion Bishop Canevin Crusaders in the WPIAL single A title game on Saturday November 1st at 1:00 PM at Baldwin high school. This game marks a rematch of last years title game and a chance for revenge for the Centurions. The game can be heard at www.msasports.net on the MSA Sport Network.

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