Kittanning girls come up just short against defending champ Indiana
Kittanning's girls volleyball team put up a fight, but Indiana isn't ready to let go of the top spot in Section 3-AA.
Indiana dropped the second set, but held on to win the first meeting between the section's top two teams of a year ago, 3-1, over the Wildcats on Thursday in Kittanning.
Senior outside hitter Natalie Cignetti led all players with 19 kills for the defending section champion Little Indians (2-0, 2-0), while the Wildcats (2-1, 1-1) got a team-best 12 kills from outside hitter Kirsten Wolfe. Kittanning setter Taylor Wright finished with 27 assists in the match, which ended with set scores were 25-21, 19-25, 25-15 and 25-20.
“I'm really proud of our girls because they played hard and gave everything they had,” Kittanning coach Kara Grafton said. “Indiana is a good team, and they're going to make you make mistakes. My girls did everything I asked, and I'm happy with how they played.”
The Wildcats hung around in the match with exceptional defense against the taller Indians. Terra Schall led Kittanning with 37 digs, and Maggie McCanna was right behind her with 30, as the team prolonged points and forced Indiana into its own share of errors.
“Kittanning always plays hard, and they play incredible defense,” Indiana coach Malinda Oesterling said.
“The stuff that we normally do that will fall for us and score, when you play against them, it doesn't. They pick so much stuff up, and it was a good match between two good teams.”
Cignetti was the difference-maker for Indiana, as she was responsible for many of the Indians' critical points during the match.
Seven of Cignetti's kills came in the first set to give Indiana control, and in the fourth set, it was on her hard, dipping serves that Indiana turned a 15-13 deficit into a 19-15 lead to clinch the match.
“(Cignetti)'s a great player, and she's a strong hitter,” Grafton said. “We never really cater to (defend) one player because we're a strong team defensively all-around. But a hitter like that is going to make things happen.”
The Indians weren't a one-player outfit, however, as they also got 10 kills from Aaryn Gray and a strong all-around game from middle hitter Zoe Zahorchak, the tallest player on the court at 6-foot-1.
Kittanning took the second set with its best blocking of the match. Wright, Wolfe and Megan Cloak all had blocks that scored points for the Wildcats, who rallied from an 18-15 deficit and scored the final six points on Wright's serve.
After the match, Grafton's biggest message to her players was that they now know where the bar is set in their section, but that they can play with a team of Indiana's quality.
“We went four with them, and (winning a match) definitely doable,” Grafton said. “We still have to go out to Indiana, and hopefully, our girls will be excited and on top of their game so they play as well as they did tonight.”