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Norwin boys volleyball team makes it to state tournament again

| Tuesday, May 28, 2013, 9:33 a.m.
Randy Jarosz | For the Norwin Star
Norwin outside hitter Matt Kelly hits the ball over a Penn-Trafford block during the WPIAL Class AAA consolation match against Penn-Trafford on May 23, 2013, at Baldwin High School.
Randy Jarosz | For the Norwin Star
Norwin libero Dane Hilko passes the ball during the WPIAL Class AAA consolation match against Penn-Trafford on May 23, 2013, at Baldwin High School.

After his team lost to Bethel Park in the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals last week, Norwin volleyball coach Al Warden laid out the path to a state championship to his players.

The path began with the WPIAL consolation match last Thursday against rival Penn-Trafford at Baldwin High School.

“I said we need to win five more matches — this one, plus four more,” Warden said after the Knights beat Penn-Trafford, 3-2, to claim the third and final WPIAL spot in the PIAA playoffs.

“That (would mean) we've won a state championship. I said I'd rather put a sign in our gym on the left-hand side (for a state championship) as compared to the right-hand side (for a WPIAL championship). That's still the goal.”

Norwin finished as the third-place team in the state last season, advancing to the semifinals before losing to eventual champion Chambersburg.

The Knights' path to a state championship begins Wednesday with a 7:30 p.m. match against WPIAL champion North Allegheny at North Hills High School.

North Allegheny, which won its seventh straight WPIAL title and its 10th in the past 11 years, beat the Knights, 3-0, earlier this year in a nonsection match.

“We need to play the best games (we can), especially the next one,” senior Mitch Farabaugh said after Thursday's match. “NA, they're the best team in the state, and we need to play our best at that point. We can't let up.”

That kind of conviction also helped Norwin against Penn-Trafford.

After the Knights' 3-0 loss to Bethel Park in the semifinals last Tuesday, Warden said he wondered about how his team would respond against Penn-Trafford. And when Penn-Trafford took the first game by a 25-14 score, that question grew even larger.

“I wasn't overly concerned. I was a little worried, though,” Warden said. “It was a little bit of a carryover from Tuesday, and I was a little worried. These guys are graduating (Friday), the seniors are done — (you wonder if) these guys have moved on from high school yet.”

Norwin responded with a 25-20 win in the second game, but Penn-Trafford won the third game, 25-23.

The 2-1 deficit left Norwin with no room for error in the final two games, but the Knights didn't need any. Norwin never trailed in the fourth game, jumping out to an 11-3 lead and holding off a late Penn-Trafford rally to win, 25-21.

In the fifth and deciding game, Norwin again never trailed, winning by a 15-8 score.

“We're pretty evenly matched, and we're always momentum teams,” Farabaugh said. “Once they get on a roll, there's no stopping them. Once we get on a roll, there's no stopping us.”

“(The seniors) obviously still want to play some volleyball for Norwin,” Warden said.

Farabaugh led the Knights with 16 kills and didn't commit a single hitting error. Senior Nick Idele led the team with nine blocks.

This PIAA tournament appearance marks Norwin's third in a row. Qualifying for the tournament was one of the team's goals this season.

“It feels better than I thought it would (after the loss) Tuesday night,” Warden said.

“But it feels really good, especially going down, 1-0, then going down, 2-1, (to see) the fight in these guys,” Warden said. “It feels good going back to states, especially for the younger guys who haven't been there yet.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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