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Norwin volleyball seeks return to postseason

| Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Norwin's Hannah Cubarney sets the ball as Penn-Trafford defenders Stephanie Jones (left) and Alex Heiman (right) negotiate the block during a match at Norwin on Tuesday, September 25, 2012. Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review

In qualifying for the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs last season, the Norwin girls volleyball team accomplished something it hadn't done since 2006.

With several key players returning from that squad, the Knights will look to repeat their success in 2013.

“(Playoffs are) our goal every year,” coach Mary Ellen Ferragonio said. “We may not always reach it, but that's always our goal.”

While Norwin lost in the first round of the playoffs to Pine-Richland, Ferragonio said the experience of reaching the postseason will help the players who return in 2013.

The Knights return several key players from that squad, but the team will need to fill voids.

One loss happened earlier this summer, as senior setter/right-side hitter Lindsay Smith went down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her knee. Sophomore Maria Ferragonio will step in for Smith, the Knights' starting setter last season.

“I think because (Smith) knows the girls and has that year under her belt of running the court, it's a pretty big loss,” Mary Ellen Ferragonio said.

Key returners for Norwin include senior hitters Catherine Ferragonio and Hannah Cubarney. Ferragonio was named first-team all-section last season, while Cubarney was named to the second team.

“Those two are hopefully going to play a really big role,” Mary Ellen Ferragonio said. “(Senior hitter) Hanna Evanchak, we're also expecting to play a pretty big role, and (junior hitter) Laura Buchanan.

“ Our middle hitter that we lost last year (Rachel Keto) was really a nice player. We're hoping some of these girls can fill in her enthusiasm and leadership.”

Other hitters who will compete for playing time include seniors Alexis Boytim and Brittany Jones and juniors Lauren Dolney and Molly Parker.

Norwin's defense will be led by junior Reilly Parker, the returning starter at libero. Other players who could see time on the back row include Boytim, Molly Parker and senior Alexis Petach.

“A lot of people this summer commented on how much heart (the players) have,” Ferragonio said. “I think their strength is the fact that they get along really well, and they work really well together. And some of them have played before.”

The Knights finished in second place in the section with a 9-3 record last season, behind rival Penn-Trafford (11-1). Hempfield (7-5) finished third.

The Warriors and Spartans look strong again in 2013, Ferragonio said, but she also expects to be tested by the remaining teams in the section: Franklin Regional, Kiski, Latrobe and Laurel Highlands.

“I think it'll be a tight race,” she said. “I wouldn't underestimate any of the other teams coming back, either. I know some teams have lost some pretty strong players, but they all have good, solid programs, good, solid players and good, solid coaches. I expect every team to be pretty good. I don't see us for sure breezing through matches.”

Norwin will begin the season with nonsection home matches against Gateway at 4 p.m. Friday and Derry at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday. The Knights will open section play with a home match against Hempfield at 7:15 p.m. Sept. 5.

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

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