Norwin volleyball falls in opening round
Considering the way Norwin went through its girls volleyball season, it was only fitting that the team's playoff match went to a decisive fifth set.
This time, the Knights were unable to pull out the final win they needed to advance, as they fell on the road, 3-2, to fifth-seeded Pine-Richland in a WPIAL Class AAA first-round game on Oct. 24.
Pine-Richland advanced to face No. 4 Mt. Lebanon in the quarterfinals.
It was the first time all season that Norwin had lost in a fifth set, and had they managed to pull out the win, it would have been Norwin's first playoff win since 2006, the year the team was last in the postseason.
“I told the girls that they should be proud of themselves for fighting through a lot of tough matches this year,” Norwin coach Mary Ellen Ferragonio said. “Even though they lost, they should be proud of how they played all season.”
Playoff inexperience may have played a part for Norwin, which was taking on a Pine-Richland program that has won three WPIAL titles since 2001 — the most recent in 2010.
The Knights won the opening set, and after dropping the second, retook the lead in the match, 2-1. But in the fourth and fifth sets, some uncharacteristic errors came into play as the Rams pressed to get back in the match.
“I thought we played well all night, but in the end, we needed to stay aggressive,” Ferragonio said. “It seemed like, at the end, we were afraid to make a mistake, and we didn't swing away like we usually do.”
The loss brought an end not only to the Knights' best season in six years, but also to the careers of seven seniors, all of whom played key roles in the team's return to the postseason.
“I was really impressed. I think they gave it their all this season and worked together,” Ferragonio said. “They're a great group of girls, and they're one of those groups that you miss after the year is over.”
But with six returning varsity players coming back next year, Norwin's resurgence might not be a one-time thing.
“They're excited for next year; I'm excited for next year,” Ferragonio said.
“I think this year made them realize they can go further than they thought they could before.”
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.