Host Plum volleyball takes second at invitational
The Plum varsity boys volleyball team was one point away from wrapping up the championship at Saturday's 38th annual Plum Invitational tournament at Plum High School.
The Mustangs led Norwin, 24-20, in the championship game.
However, the Knights used their talent, and Plum had a couple of miscues, and Norwin rallied to capture the game, 26-24, and take home the title for the second year in a row.
“They were definitely very frustrated,” Plum head coach Mike Larko said.
“Norwin is a very talented team, and all six points could've gone either way. Those things happen sometimes. But we played very well throughout the tournament. It was, by far, the best we played all season. We had only one poor game the whole tournament, and the rest we played strong. We played the way we know we can.”
Plum lost to Norwin in the semifinals of last year's tournament, and the Knights went on to beat Bethel Park in the finals.
All three of Plum's playoff games this year went into extra points.
Plum disposed of Montour, 31-29, in a quarterfinal match. It was the second year in a row that the Mustangs beat Montour in the quarterfinals.
A 27-25 triumph over Bethel Park in the semifinals propelled Plum into the finals. It was a big win for Plum, who fell to the Black Hawks, 3-1, in a nonsection match earlier in the season.
“That match was back-and-forth the entire way,” Larko said.
“Both teams made some great plays. It was a huge win for us. They beat us in the dual match, and they beat us pretty bad in a couple of tournaments. We played them in the afternoon first-place pool, and they beat us, 25-14. It was big to turn things around and get that win.”
The Mustangs started their day with the first round of pool play, and they scored two-game sweeps of Allderdice, Pine-Richland and Derry.
That put Plum in the first-place pool in the afternoon.
The Mustangs didn't have long to dwell on the pool-play loss to Bethel Park, as they were back on the court five minutes later against Fox Chapel.
Plum bounced back with a 25-18 win over the Foxes.
“They realized that they played really well in the morning, but they had to step up their game,” Larko said.
“They did that against Fox Chapel.”
Norwin then beat Plum in the final game of the pool, and the Mustangs were seeded third for the playoffs.
Larko said the Plum Invitational performance was an improvement from a tough 3-0 loss to Latrobe two days earlier.
The Mustangs finished with a season split against the Wildcats, and they fell to 5-3 in Section 3-AAA.
“Everything came together for us on Saturday,” Larko said.
“We didn't look very good on Thursday. The games weren't that close. The guys wanted to make a statement on Saturday, especially on their home court.”
Larko said the Plum Invitational overall was pretty competitive.
“It was a strong 16-team field,” he said. “A lot of the teams saw teams that are not in their section and that they don't normally play. It was a good day. Everything ran smoothly. A lot of people helped to make that happen.”
Plum continued its battle for a WPIAL playoff spot on Tuesday at Penn-Trafford. The match was to be contested past the deadline for this week's edition.
The Mustangs host Norwin on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
Plum suffered 3-0 losses to both the Warriors and Knights during the first half of section play.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.