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Volleyball season ready to pick up for Norwin boys

| Wednesday, April 3, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

While their baseball and softball counterparts have been hindered by the weather, the Norwin boys volleyball team has been keeping warm and keeping busy.

The Knights suffered a quarterfinal setback in their own season-opening tournament on March 23, but Norwin is 2-0 in its two regular-season matches, including a 3-0 sweep of Hempfield in the Section 3-AAA opener last Thursday.

“The tournament went OK for us. We played well into the playoffs and had a bye into the quarterfinals, but lost in a one-game playoff to 25 against Bishop Guilfoyle,” Norwin coach Al Warden said.

Norwin finished second to Bethel Park in pool play of the 16-team tournament, which earned the Knights a bye to the quarterfinal round. There they met Bishop Guilfoyle, a Class AA power from Altoona, and were eliminated. Guilfoyle went on to reach an all Double-A final in the tournament, as it lost in the championship game to Deer Lakes.

The tournament was the first true test of the season for Norwin, which cruised in its nonsection season opener by cruising to a 3-0 win over Baldwin. The Knights were scheduled to host Gateway in a section match on Tuesday, after this edition's deadline, but the rebuilding Gators shouldn't pose much problems for the reigning WPIAL runners-up.

“It's been tough. We beat Baldwin and Hempfield, 3-0, but unfortunately, both of those teams are down a little bit or a little young, and we handed those matches easily,” Warden said.

Playing the section match and tournament without starting libero Dane Hilko did give Warden a chance to try some new combinations of players and try out some different tactics in a game situation, something the coach hopes will provide a boost as the season rolls on.

Things will pick up for the Knights beginning this Thursday, when they go on the road to face Penn Hills in a section match. This Saturday, the Knights travel to Derry for their second tournament of the season, one that will feature the Double-A powerhouse host, defending Class AAA champ North Allegheny and section opponent Latrobe.

“We were looking at some other offensive schemes and trying some new people,” Warden said. “Our season doesn't really start until Thursday.

“Penn Hills has two real nice ballplayers that have been around since they were sophomores, so that will be a chance to get our feet wet against some good players.”

From the Derry Tournament, Norwin's schedule really picks up next week with section matches against two fellow playoff hopefuls, Plum and Latrobe.

“I'm definitely eager to get to Derry this weekend,” Warden said. “They're going to have North Allegheny, Latrobe, Penn-Trafford — some of the top teams in the WPIAL. It will be a good test and a good warm-up for the following two weeks when we play the best teams in our section.”

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or mgrubba@tribweb.com.

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