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Norwin boys volleyball holds off Latrobe

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By Keith Barnes
Thursday, April 11, 2013, 11:30 p.m.

The Norwin boys volleyball team may have played in the 2012 WPIAL Class AAA championship game and pushed its way into the PIAA semifinals, but the Knights really haven't gotten the kind of respect around the state as some other schools.

When the Pa. Volleyball Coaches' Association announced its preseason rankings, the Knights were nowhere to be found. But Latrobe, a team that won one playoff game last season, came into 2013 ranked No. 7 in the state.

Perhaps Norwin (6-0, 5-0) will turn a couple of heads — and earn a spot in the state rankings — after Thursday night as the Knights hammered out a 3-2 (25-23, 25-17, 21-25, 18-25, 15-9) win at Latrobe in the first of their two Section 3 meetings. The Wildcats have dropped to No. 10 in the state rankings in the last two weeks but remain the second-ranked team out of the WPIAL behind only PVCA Class AAA No. 1 North Allegheny.

“I would have liked to do it in three, but it's nice to know we can win a five-game match,” Norwin coach Al Warden said. “Those guys played a lot of volleyball, and it was a nice match just because of our fight and we didn't hang it up.”

It didn't appear Norwin would need to fight all that much. The Knights won the first two games, including coming back from an 18-13 deficit in the first.

“I didn't expect them to come back because they have a couple of guys injured, but they just picked up the momentum and carried it through Game 3 and Game 4,” Warden said. “They took it to us, played nice defense and they caused us problems.”

One of the biggest reasons for the Latrobe comeback was the return of 6-foot-3 middle blocker Joe Wojciechowski, who had had been out with a left-ankle injury. He was on the bench for the first two games before coming in as a back-line specialist the final three games. Though he struggled at times playing primarily as a defensive player instead of attacking at the net, just having him on the court made a difference.

“This was the first time he played, and I wasn't surprised that, even having him in on defense, he gave the team the confidence to fight for every point,” Latrobe coach Drew Vosefski said. “His presence on the court just means so much to this team, and I give him credit for coming in.”

After the game, Wojciechowski was back in a boot to stabilize the ankle, but his contribution was hard to ignore. But it was more than offset by Norwin senior middle hitter Nick Idele, who finished 10 kills despite Latrobe doing its best to keep the ball away from his long reach.

“He was frustrated because they did a good job of getting us out of our offense so we couldn't set up, and they were blocking him,” Warden said. “That was the toughest match he's had all year and I've got to coach him better and get him to work around a little more because, up to this point, he's just dominated everyone he's played.”

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