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Hempfield volleyball aims for another upset in semifinals

| Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017, 7:00 p.m.
Hempfield's Allison Podkul (15) sets the ball against Baldwin in a WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinal match on Tuesday Oct. 31, 2017 at Norwin.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Hempfield's Allison Podkul (15) sets the ball against Baldwin in a WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinal match on Tuesday Oct. 31, 2017 at Norwin.
Hempfield's Kierstin Schade (18) reaches as Baldwin's Mia Hampsay (5) attempts to set the ball in a WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinal match on Tuesday Oct. 31, 2017 at Norwin.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Hempfield's Kierstin Schade (18) reaches as Baldwin's Mia Hampsay (5) attempts to set the ball in a WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinal match on Tuesday Oct. 31, 2017 at Norwin.

The Hempfield girls volleyball team has hit its peak in the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs.

The No. 12-seeded Spartans, who finished third in Section 3 with a 7-3 record, swept fifth-seeded Pine-Richland in the first round. In Tuesday's quarterfinals, the Spartans continued their solid play, defeating No. 4 Baldwin, 3-1.

“Right now, I just think we are peaking at the right time, and the girls are having fun,” Hempfield coach Kathy Kuhns said. “We wanted to get the ball to the middle and set up our middle hitters early, and we did that. We are just playing consistent volleyball right now.”

Game-planning and preparation was key in both playoff wins, said senior Ashley Roberts.

“The way we prepared specifically for those matches played a key part in our success,” she said. “We stayed focused on the game plan and made adjustments when it was needed.”

The Spartans, who were third in the WPIAL and reached the PIAA tournament last season, will face their toughest test yet in the semifinals. They will play No. 1 North Allegheny at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at North Hills.

“I don't think anybody had us making it this far, so we are able to play loose, with nothing to lose,” Kuhns said. “I think as long as we are able to make the adjustments like we have done in the first two rounds, we should be able to compete.”

“The main thing is we believe in each other, and we work hard as a team,” Roberts said. “We like to play fast and work the ball to the middle to give ourselves options, so that is what we will look to do.”

Although the Spartans understand they are an underdog, that won't stop the players from fighting for a spot in the final.

“We need to continue to do what we have been doing here in the first two rounds of the playoffs,” Kuhns said. “We have a diverse group of senior leaders that we will look to step up.

“It will take a team effort to win this one.”

In Tuesday's 3-0 win over Peters Township, North Allegheny (17-0) was led by middle hitters Mika Logan and Anna Sprys, as well as outside hitters Kayla Dinkins, Avery Tuman and Paige Miller. Abby Miller handles the setting, and Erin Carmody anchors the back row.

“As the underdog, we want to get ahead early, pursue the ball and put the pressure on them,” Roberts said. “It's also important that we have a short memory. We are going to make mistakes; we will just have to look past them and move on to the next point.”

Hempfield did not play NA in the regular season, but has seen the Tigers play in tournaments.

“We know how good they are,” Kuhns said. “They are solid all around, have a deep bench and great coaching. This will have to be our best game of the season.”

“We know they have a good squad over there at North Allegheny,” Roberts said. “They are big and strong in the middle. We can counter that by strong serving and building momentum off of that. We will be in a good spot if we can get ahead early.”

Cody Scott is a freelance writer.

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