Ambridge volleyball bounces Derry for trip to PIAA final
Ambridge dominated Derry in its two previous volleyball meetings.
Tuesday's PIAA Class AA semifinal at North Allegheny High School was different, but with the same result.
Ambridge (18-3) defeated Derry, 3-0, but the games were a lot closer. The Bridgers rallied to win Game 1, 28-26, after trailing 24-22. They won the next two 25-19 and 25-23 to advance the PIAA finals Saturday at Penn State where they will battle Northeast, which breezed to a win against Holy Redeemer.
After a tough Game 1 battle, Ambridge co-captain Cody Brooks yelled to his teammates, “They came to play boys. We have to pick it up and bury Derry.”
Derry fell behind, 7-2, in Game 2 but rallied to take a 16-15 lead. But another late run by Ambridge proved too much for Derry to overcome.
“We were able to bounce back in the second game, but we gave up two long runs that hurt us,” Derry coach Shawn Spencer said. “We got into a little rut the second game. We battled back.”
Derry showed Ambridge in the first game it was ready to battle as Matt Vasinko, Josh Wannamaker and Ian Malis went spike for spike with the Ambridge trio of Lee Smith, Brandon Buck and Trent Munk.
Vasinko finished with 18 kills, Wannamaker 10 and Malis six. Smith had 16 kills, Buck nine and Munk seven.
“We seem to get off to a slow start and a team like Derry gets a little momentum and runs with it,” Ambridge coach Glenn Freed said. “We kept battling the entire time in that first game.
“It was huge for us, more for them not winning it than us winning it. It was pretty important for us to get that momentum. We were a little slow reacting to Derry's outside attack in the first game, so we reminded them to move quicker.”
In the second and third games, miss-hits and service errors cost Derry.
“Against Ambridge, you want to be aggressive serving the ball,” Spencer said. “Sometimes, you're going to miss a few.”
Smith was a dominating force throughout the contest. He, Buck and Dan Zajac at times dominated the front-line.
“Derry is a good team,” Smith said, who had ice on his sore lower back. “We knew it wasn't going to be easy.”
Ambridge also got a strong floor game from Aaron Mueller, who had 29 assists, and Brooks, who finished with eight digs. Derry's Andy Pannizi had 40 assists and Izaak Fulmer-Moffat had 14 digs and Wannamaker had nine.
Freed said the team is excited about getting back to the state championship. Ambridge won in 2010, but none of the current players were on the team.
“We have an opportunity to bring the gold home,” Freed said. “We're super excited about that.”