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Norwin locks up volleyball playoff spot

| Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012, 8:55 p.m.
Norwin's Rachel Keto receives a serve during a match against Penn-Trafford at Norwin on Tuesday, September 25, 2012. Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review

The long wait is over.

Norwin's girls volleyball team will be a part of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs for the first time since 2006 after clinching its playoff spot with a 3-2 win at Kiski Area last Thursday.

The win improved the Knights to 8-2 in Section 1-AAA play with two games to play, and with Kiski Area and Hempfield tied for third at 5-5, Norwin can finish no worse than second.

On top of that, the Knights entered the final week of section play with a chance to share the section title. The Knights were to host Latrobe on Tuesday, after this edition's deadline, before closing out section play at Penn-Trafford — the first-place team at 10-1 entering the week — this Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

This year's Knights have shown toughness in close matches to lock up their playoff berth. The team has four five-set wins in the section, including a pair against Hempfield and one against Laurel Highlands.

“Most of our matches have gone five games, and they're staying focused and fighting, not giving up when they're down,” Norwin coach Mary Ellen Ferragonio said.

Ferragonio said her players are excited to be in the playoffs, but with two matches this week against tough opposition, their focus remain on whatever is the next match on the schedule.

“We haven't rolled over any teams this year,” Ferragonio said. “We've struggled to win some of these matches, and I think that has them concentrating on just winning the next one.”

The Knights added a nonsection win on Monday over a Greensburg Salem team beset by injuries, 3-0, but the final two section matches, which come against the two section foes to defeat the Knights, and this Saturday's 10-team tournament at Norwin should provide a much stiffer challenge.

“In both of those (losses), especially at Latrobe, we didn't play very well for some reason,” Ferragonio said. “The girls were pretty mad at themselves after those, so I think they'll be ready to play.”

By wrapping up the regular season with those two tough matches and a tournament that will feature Greensburg Central Catholic, Indiana, Derry and Beaver, among others, Norwin certainly will be playoff-tested when the brackets come out next week.

“We knew we had some potential this year, we just didn't know how far they would take it,” Ferragonio said.

“Who knows what will happen in those (final) two matches? But I'm very happy with what they have done this year.”

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or mgrubba@tribweb.com.

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