Top-seeded North Allegheny sweeps Hempfield in WPIAL semifinals
North Allegheny senior middle hitter Kayla Dinkins sent a charge over the net, testing the waters early Thursday night at North Hills Middle School.
The Tigers' girls volleyball team wanted to see what 12th-seeded Hempfield had to offer during their WPIAL Class AAAA semifinal match.
The Spartans dug the well-hit ball out and later scored a point following a North Allegheny attack error on the match's opening point.
Throughout the first set, Hempfield put up an effective block to make undefeated and top-seed North Allegheny sweat. Maintaining such proficiency against the Tigers' well-oiled machine proved to be too much.
North Allegheny survived the opening salvo and rode the momentum to a 3-0 (28-26, 25-19, 25-21) sweep. The Tigers (18-0) will take on Armstrong — which beat Seneca Valley 3-1 in the other semifinal — on Saturday at Baldwin in the finals.
Hempfield (10-5) will have an opportunity to make the PIAA tournament for the second straight year when it plays Seneca Valley in a third-place match, also on Saturday at Baldwin.
“I think our kids hit the ball hard and down when we train,” North Allegheny coach Heidi Miller said. “When you have something in front of you, you have to figure out how to make adjustments. I'm proud of our team that in the second and third game we learned how to attack in a smarter way. We rallied.”
How the Spartans lost the first set was a tough blow. Middle hitter Kierstin Schade had Hempfield in position to win following a kill which put them ahead 24-22. Two attack errors by Hempfield tied the match. The Spartans had a third chance to win it, but hit a service error with a 25-24 lead.
North Allegheny pulled away after tying the set at 26. Avery Tuman finished a kill and was followed up by an Abby Miller ace that gave North Allegheny a 1-0 edge.
“It was tough to lose the first set,” Hempfield coach Kathy Kuhns said. “It was definitely within our reach. I think it took a little bit of the wind out of our sails. I think we put up a good fight.”
Schade led Hempfield with nine kills, while Mekayla Dedo had eight.
The Spartans never led in the second set. North Allegheny opened on a 4-1 run and stretched out things for a 25-19 win. Things started to open up in the middle for the Tigers. Dinkins started to find space, knocking down five kills and contributing a block. Dinkins finished with eight kills and four blocks.
Setting the middle was an adjustment from the game plan.
“At the beginning of the match, I told our setters to avoid running middles,” Miller said. “Their middles are good. We were set more left side and right side. When we attacked out of the middle we were having success. You go with what's working.”
In the final set, both teams went back-and-forth for much of the set. Tied at 14, North Allegheny received a kill from Kristen Chomos that was followed by an ace from Abby Miller. North Allegheny never trailed again.
Avery Tuman tied Dinkins for a team-high eight kills. Mika Logan and Paige Miller had five each for the Tigers.
The Spartans never found their spark after the first set.
“We didn't serve as well as we normally do,” Kuhns said. “We didn't serve-receive as well as we normally do. When you aren't controlling the ball, everything else has to take precedence.”
Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.