Hempfield girls volleyball overcomes injuries to stay in playoff mix
Injuries shook Hempfield's girls volleyball team early in the season.
Fortunately for the Spartans, they got through the first half of WPIAL Section 3-4A play in contention for a championship.
Senior middle hitter Kiersten Schade sustained a knee injury in the first section match against Penn-Trafford.
“We're up 2-0, and she went down with an injury. That switched the momentum around. We ended up losing the match in five sets,” Hempfield coach Kathy Kuhns said.
The team was already down a starter when Madelyn Beasley tore a meniscus early in the season.
“She was a starting defensive specialist and could play in the front row and swing from the back row,” Kuhns said. “We're definitely missing her.”
With its rotation in flux, the team lost to Norwin in five sets in its next section match.
“I can't remember a time when Hempfield volleyball started out section play 0-2,” Kuhns said.
Hempfield bounced back, though. The Spartans swept Franklin Regional, 3-0, and beat Connellsville, 3-1. They won the Penn-Trafford tournament and carried the momentum into a 3-0 win against Latrobe as Schade returned.
“I am very proud of the way we responded. We had those rough patches, but they didn't give up and didn't want to be seen as a team that is one-dimensional,” Kuhns said. “We definitely faced some adversity, but kept plugging away. We're confident and looking forward to the second half of the season.”
With Schade out, other players — especially hitters Mekayla Dedo and Ashley Roberts — shouldered more of the load, which benefits the team more with Schade back.
“Kiersten is really is our go-to player, as far as the offense goes. Her injury really pushed the other hitters to step up and take responsibility,” Kuhns said. “Mekayla is really doing well. She has improved her hitting. Ashley really stepped it up. She is hitting the ball into positions down the line. I think we forced ourselves to have more variety on offense. We've been working on our serves and where we're serving our opponents. I think it helped bring around other parts of our game. Our setters (Gabby Kuhns and Allison Podkul) have come a long way in their relationship and working together.”
Though Hempfield is 3-2 in the section, it has a shot of defending its championship.
“We're hoping to. We're definitely in the mix. The funny thing about our section is that no one is undefeated. At this point in time in this section, anything can happen,” Kuhns said. “We definitely feel more prepared going into the second half of the season. When it comes to volleyball, it's a game of errors. On any given night, the team playing the most consistently will probably win the match. It'll be a battle at the top for sure.”
Joe Sager is a freelance writer.