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Norwin Ambridge advance to PIAA volleyball semifinals

| Friday, June 1, 2012, 1:56 p.m.

On Friday afternoon, senior Nate Derry questioned whether followers of PIAA boys volleyball consider Norwin a big-name program at the state level.

A spot in the Class AAA semifinals should help raise the Knights' profile.

Norwin won two of its three matches during quarterfinal-round pool play yesterday at Penn State's Multi-Sport Indoor Facility. The victories led to a second-place finish in Pool A and a spot in the semis, which begin at 11 a.m. today.

Chambersburg, the winner of Pool B, stands in the way of Norwin's first title game appearance since 2005 — that season was also the last time Norwin advanced past the first round.

“I had a feeling that we were good enough to run with everyone here,” said Derry, who had 22 kills and 12 blocks Friday. “It would've been almost disappointing if we didn't get this far.”

The Knights opened with authority, defeating Souderton, 3-0, and Parkland, 2-1, before falling to pool winner Central Dauphin, 3-0.

Class AA

Few Class AA teams from the WPIAL have been as accustomed to making the PIAA semifinals as Ambridge, and the Bridgers are headed there again after taking second in Pool B.

Ambridge earned its fourth trip to the semifinals in five years by winning two of its three quarterfinal matches. The Bridgers lost, 2-1, to Dover but went on to beat Cochranton, 2-1, and Holy Redeemer, 3-0.

“It's a crazy feeling,” said setter Justin Gleason, who had 96 assists Friday. “To start off the day like we did, it wasn't what I wanted. I feel like the inexperience kind of showed in the beginning. Some of the players I think were a little afraid. But by the time we got to Cochranton, I think everyone had turned it around.”

Ambridge will play York Suburban, the Pool A winner and the top-ranked team in the state, at 9 a.m. today.

This season's Derry squad went further in the PIAA tournament than any of its predecessors from the past decade, but the Trojans hit a wall during their first quarterfinal-round appearance since 1998 and failed to advance. The Trojans challenged Bethlehem Catholic throughout their first match of the day, a 3-0 loss, and then fell to York Suburban, 3-0, before defeating Northeastern, 2-1.

“I think the loss there sort of deflated us a little bit,” coach Shawn Spencer said. “So we came out flat (against York Suburban)… in volleyball, you really can't play flat like that.”

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at wwest@tribweb.com or 724-543-1321.

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