Tracking the year in Norwin athletics
By Matt Grubba
Published: Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, 8:56 p.m.
The year 2012 had its share of memorable performances from Norwin athletics, but perhaps the most shining moments came in a series of outstanding individual efforts.
A trio of WPIAL champions were the headliners for the Knights, while some of Norwin's teams returned to heights they hadn't reached in many years, or even decades. Below is a look back at some of the biggest sports stories to be featured in the Norwin Star in 2012:
Two of Norwin's WPIAL champions in 2012 earned their titles on the same day, as senior thrower Martina Milcic won the shot put and senior runner Autumn Greba won the 1,600 meters at the WPIAL Track & Field Championships on May 17.
Milcic, who now is on the track team at Seton Hill University, clinched her title with her first two career throws to break the 40-foot barrier, the second of which gave her the winning distance of 40 feet, 8 inches.
“Getting to 40, I think it is (as big as winning gold). To finally break 40 feet, and to do it with 40 feet, 8 inches, I was so happy I actually cried. I'm just ecstatic,” Milcec said.
Greba followed suit less than an hour later when she turned an astonishing performance in the 1,600. Now a freshman runner for Navy, Greba kicked in her sprint earlier than usual with remarkable results, as her winning time of 4 minutes, 52.41 seconds was a personal best, a WPIAL meet record and the second-fastest time ever run by a WPIAL girl.
“I felt really good ... I thought I might have done something terribly wrong, but I had to commit to the move once I started it,” Greba said.
Norwin's great meet also included a pair of silver medals, as senior pole vaulter Kasey Kemp and the boys 4x800 relay team both finished second and qualified for states.
Norwin junior Heath Coles was a strong wrestler for the Knights all season, but competing in a very deep 145-pound weight class a title at sectionals, the county championships or the Powerade Tournament eluded him. That changed on his home mats on March 3 in the WPIAL Championships, where he defeated Canon-McMillan's Dario Dobbin, 3-1, to bring home district gold.
Coles' biggest win came in the semifinals, where he upset top-seeded Ty Lydic of Latrobe in overtime, 3-2, to avenge three losses earlier in the season.
“He's a great wrestler, and he's getting ready to go to college where he's going to do great things,” Coles said. “It's always close with us, but it feels great to finally get the win.”
Coles finished his 2011-12 season with a 38-7 record and as the fourth-place finisher at states.
Norwin's softball team put together a memorable season in 2012 by capturing the program's first section title in more than 30 years with a 15-4 (10-2 section) record.
Highlighting the Knights' season were landmark wins over Hempfield, 6-1, and Latrobe, 8-7, both of which highlighted the team's power at the plate.
Nikki Ingel, Cassidy Chappell, Maddy Wensel and Abbey Zorzi gave the Knights perhaps the WPIAL's best top of the order to support pitcher Jamie Robinson, while Norwin was capable of producing runs from all nine lineup spots.
Though the team lost to Canon-McMillan in the WPIAL quarterfinals, only Zorzi and fellow senior starters Rachel Lojas and Kayleigh Dodd graduated from the team, which means 2013 could be another good year for the Knights.
More heavy hitting
Hitting of a different kind served the Knights' boys volleyball team well, as coach Al Warden's team reached the WPIAL final and PIAA semfinals, both in somewhat surprising fashion.
Early in the year, Warden said there was “rebuilding” to be done by his team after a strong 2011 season, but led by seniors Nate Derry, Cody Stitely, Jeff Springer, Brian Ross and Chad Brough, the Knights became one of the best in the state.
Norwin reached the WPIAL final by defeating heavily favored Seneca Valley, 3-1, before falling in the final to North Allegheny on May 25, 3-0. The Knights came back to be only the second team in program history to reach the final day of the state tournament, where they fell on June 2 in the semifinals to eventual state champion Chambersburg, 3-0.
Ladies winning, too
Despite being the school's most decorated program, Norwin's girls volleyball team lacked the recent success of their male counterparts.
That changed this year, as the Knights ended a six-year playoff drought with a 9-3 section record and pushed powerhouse Penn-Trafford to the limit in a 3-1 match with a shot at the Section 1-AAA title on the final day of the season.
A veteran group that included seven seniors, Norwin's players made the playoffs their goal from the first day of practice. Even though the season ended with a 3-2 loss to Pine-Richland in the first round of the WPIAL tournament, the 2012 team provided moments that hearkened back to the glory days of Norwin volleyball.
Norwin's baseball team sent off its senior class as permanent section champs by completing the team's fourth straight season atop the Section 2-AAAA standings and completing a second straight undefeated regular season.
For their work, the Knights earned the No. 1 seed in the WPIAL tournament and a bye to the quarterfinals, but there, trouble awaited. Norwin fell in its first playoff game for the second straight season, this year losing to eventual runner-up Mt. Lebanon, 5-2.
Soccer rolls on
Norwin's boys soccer team went through a transition, as Scott Schuchert replaced Kevin Chitester as head coach after nearly a decade of success under its previous coach.
But in spite of facing a tougher section with the addition of Franklin Regional, the Knights won their final four section games to force their way back into the playoffs for the 31st time in 32 years.
Norwin fell, 4-0, in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs to Pine-Richland and finished with a 9-8-0 (8-4-0 section) record.
Given Norwin's baseball success, a perfect game thrown by a Knight would seem plausible.
It was on the bowling lanes, however, that perfection was achieved, when sophomore Jake Bobak fired the second 300 game in Knights' team history at White Oak Bowl on Jan. 18 against Greensburg Central Catholic.
“When someone's bowling a perfect game, you don't talk about it. People don't even mention it. It's like a jinx (to talk about it), so everybody was quiet,” Bobak said.
“Throughout the whole game, I was thinking about it. I've had nine (strikes) in a row before, but that was the closest I ever came.”
Bobak's friend and teammate, Christian Kolesha, was the first to pull the feat for Norwin during the previous season, and the duo are back on the lanes for the Knights this season.
Freshman in states
Norwin freshman swimmer Kathryn Painter had a good 2012 by earning WPIAL medals and reaching states in two events.
At the WPIAL meet on March 1 and 2, Painter was fourth in the 200-yard individual medley in 2:07.65 and eighth in the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:07.29 to be the only Norwin swimmer to reach states this year.
And the streak ends
Perhaps no victory for Norwin was met with more celebration than the football team's 27-14 win at home over Latrobe on Sept. 21, which snapped the team's 13-game losing streak that dated back to 2010.
Casey Rebosky scored two touchdowns, Kyle Baum had one, and Nick Amendola had a team-high 114 yards rushing and a score to give the Knights the first of two wins in a bounce-back season.
“It was a big sigh of relief to finally see all our hard work pay off,” Rebosky said. “The coaches have been saying we can do this, but to actually see it happen is a great feeling. You could still see it at school on Monday, the way all the football players were smiling. We're all pretty happy.”
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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