West Shamokin volleyball team bows out of PIAA playoffs
Boys in Maplewood's lively student section drove home the message delivered by PIAA first-round match officials as they chanted “You still can't do that!” and “Check the rulebook” throughout the night Tuesday at Cochranton High School to mock West Shamokin's hitting violations.
Twelve double-hit calls, six net violations and four lift calls contributed to the Wolves' 3-1 loss to the District 10 champion Tigers in the opening round of the Class A state tournament.
West Shamokin finished with 47 unforced errors, but the betrayal of seemingly elementary skills proved especially frustrating for the team, which won the first game, 25-22, but dropped the next three (25-11, 25-20, 25-23).
“I think that we've been receiving higher-caliber officials as the season went along, and they started calling (hitting violations),” Wolves coach Justin Nolder said. “I don't want to say we were not doing it throughout the season — we were. We just weren't seeing playoff-caliber officials, so they simply did not call it, and that came back to bite us.”
The Wolves trailed, 21-19, in Game 1 when they played arguably their cleanest ball of the contest. Kills by Kelly Clowser and Jill Glover tied the score. Three unforced Maplewood errors gave West Shamokin a 24-22 lead. And then Kristen Templeton's serve hit the net and dribbled over for a game-winning ace.
“We just needed to settle in,” Maplewood coach Sheila Bancroft said. “That's not the first time that we've had to come from behind to win, unfortunately.”
Serving — and serve reception — became a weakness for West Shamokin. Most glaringly, the second and third games ended with bad serves.
But settled play included maddening moments, too, particularly for setter Jen Notto. Notto managed to distribute the ball to Glover (14 kills), Amanda Wensel (five kills) and Clowser (four kills). But during each of the first three games, the whistle sounded at least three times for double hits.
“It was purely a technique issue,” Nolder said. “It's a simple adjustment, getting your forehead to the ball … using your entire body to push it to where you're going to distribute the ball.”
Even when the Wolves avoided double-hit violations, they often found themselves on the receiving end of a blast by sophomore outside hitter Madalyn Nichols, who had 22 kills, including the match-winner.
Wensel and Alecia Calhoun had some success with blocking; they combined for five stuffs for points. Their partial blocks allowed West Shamokin to assemble one last rally as it recovered from a 20-10 deficit in Game 4 and climbed as close as 24-23.
“I tried to calm them down a little bit (afterward) and have them really look back on the accomplishments of the season in getting here, and how nobody at the beginning of the season penciled us in this tournament,” Nolder said. “We found ways to make it happen, and now we're here, and that's sometime to be proud of.”
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-543-1303.