Kittanning girls volleyball team puts up good fight, falls to Indiana
As the undeniably shorter girls volleyball team, Kittanning needed to excel in its execution of small things against perennial power Indiana on Thursday night.
The Wildcats scrambled and dove for balls during almost every rally. They prevailed in some of the match's longest vollies. But they never did quite enough to solve Indiana's firepower.
In its first major Section 3-AA challenge, Kittanning (3-1, 1-1) fell to the Indians, 3-0. The Wildcats' hustle caught the attention of all in attendance at Indiana and sent a clear message: Kittanning might not intimidate, but it most certainly frustrates.
“It was fantastic to see a good team struggle against my girls, or at least be worried and have to call a timeout to change momentum,” said Kittanning coach Kara Grafton, whose team twice went on runs that caused Indiana to call for a break. “That's what we want to do. … It's great to see how far they've come.”
Indiana, 2-0 in section play, likely has replaced Freeport as Kittanning's ultimate twice-a-season test. The Indians have won or shared five consecutive section titles, and they've lost just two section matches dating to 2007.
The first game made clear that this edition of Indiana's squad is no less daunting than previous ones. A 6-0 run by Indiana opened the match, and the Indians pulled away to win, 25-14.
The next two games ended with 25-22 scores. And in both, Kittanning won enough points in a row to rattle Indiana.
In Game 2, the Wildcats led, 15-10, when Indiana coach Malinda Oesterling called a timeout. Kittanning had claimed the previous five points — two came on Indiana errors, one was an ace by Emily Knepshield, and two were kills by Nicole Eckman and Kirsten Wolfe, respectively.
In Game 3, two unforced Indiana errors, a Knepshield ace and a Wolfe kill gave Kittanning four consecutive points that tied the score, 19-19. Oesterling used another timeout.
Wolfe finished with seven kills and 13 digs. Terra Schall logged 18 digs and three kills, and Frankie Religa logged a team-high 24 kills.
“They had a good blocking team,” Schall said. “We definitely have to hit around them and capitalize on their errors.”
Said Religa: “A lot of times, we had spurts of good and then spurts of bad. … We started off shaky. We can definitely improve on that next time we see them.”
Junior Natalie Cignetti, a 5-foot-8 outside hitter, led Indiana offensively with 12 kills and six aces. Senior Haley Stapleton (5-9) also registered 12 kills. And senior Kaitlyn Palmer (5-8) had six kills, two aces and two blocks.
Indiana's coach commended Kittanning's resolve in the face of such a lineup.
“Kittanning played really good defense and kept the ball coming back,” Oesterling said. “It was challenging, and it was fun.”
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 724-543-1303, Ext. 1321.