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Plum tangles with Hopewell at season-opening Butler Invitational

| Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012, 8:59 p.m.

Hopewell is a WPIAL and PIAA girls volleyball power in Class AA.

The Vikings are the defending WPIAL champ- ions. They made it to the state quarterfinals last season, and they entered this campaign second in the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association AA rankings.

Plum faced Hopewell last Saturday in the semifinals of the Gold bracket at the Butler Tournament, and Mustangs head coach Kory Flaherty said he got a good look at the way his team matched up against such a high-profile opponent.

“I was impressed with the way we played against Hopewell and throughout the day overall,” Flaherty said.

“There was some uncertainty going in knowing we have a young team. We didn't have an experienced setter at the varsity level, and we have some young hitters. Our passing and defense were strong, and that carried us through. That helped make the younger players more comfortable.”

The eight tournament teams were split into two pools of four, with the top two teams from each pool moving into the Gold bracket. Hopewell took both games from Plum in their best-of-three-games semifinals match.

“It was nice to play them and gauge where we stood,” Flaherty said.

Flaherty said his team played Hopewell close in the first game, but the Vikings created a wider final margin in game two.

“They have a really nice outside hitter (senior MacKenzie Biggs), and she put about eight balls down in a row in the second game,” Flaherty said.

“They kept feeding her, and we couldn't catch up with her.”

Flaherty said he liked the way the game plan worked to stop senior hitting standout Shatori Walker-Kimbrough.

Kimbrough has verbally committed to play basketball at NCAA Division I power Maryland, but she has proven her ability to take over a game on the volleyball court.

“Kimbrough is so talented, and (6-foot-2 sophomore) Courtney Zezza did a nice job of shadowing her all over the court.”

Hopewell went on to the finals and captured the title with a 2-0 victory over Indiana.

Plum kicked off tournament play in a pool with Indiana, Avonworth and West Allegheny.

The Mustangs split a pair of games against both Indiana and Avonworth and swept two from West Allegheny.

Indiana and Plum ad- vanced from their pool, and Indiana grabbed the higher seed from Plum based on point differential from each team's six games.

Plum plays its first home game of the season Thursday at 7 p.m. against Section 4-AAA foe Shaler, and the Mustangs then will test their mettle at Saturday's Shaler Tournament.

The start of the tournament is set for 8 a.m.

Plum was to open section play Tuesday against McKeesport, and the match was to be contested past the deadline for this week's edition.

Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at mlove@tribweb.com.

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