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Knoch hopes to use Freeport win as springboard

| Monday, Oct. 14, 2013, 12:46 a.m.

In search of a season-defining win, the Knoch girls volleyball team visited Freeport on Oct. 3.

Determined not to let a 3-0 loss to Freeport earlier in the year linger, the Lady Knights seized the moment and captured a 3-2 victory over previously undefeated Freeport, a perennial power in WPIAL Class AA.

The emotional win kept Knoch in the hunt for a Section 4-AA title and will provide motivation for the upcoming WPIAL playoffs.

“Freeport, you have to give them credit,” Knoch coach Diane Geist said. “They're not an easy team to beat. We've come close to beating them at tournaments. It was a huge win for us, a big psychological win.”

Knoch is anchored by Eastern Kentucky recruit Celina Sanks, a senior outside hitter. Racking up 33 kills, Sanks played every bit like a future Division I player against Freeport.

Geist describes Sanks as an intelligent team leader and Knoch's best all-around player in every aspect.

“She can see the open spots on the court when she hits,” Geist said. “She has command of her serves. She can play multiple positions. She's so athletic, and she sees the play before it happens.”

Sanks recalled the first match with Freeport, describing Knoch as nervous and tense. The second time, however, was a complete turnaround.

“We went in and had nothing to lose,” Sanks said. “I remember during warm-ups, turning to my other middle hitter and saying I feel really good about this. We weren't anxious. We were ready to play all out.”

Every team has its own individual goals along with the coach's goals. According to Sanks, the team has met two out of three team goals: beat Freeport and beat Mars. All that's left is winning the Section 4-AA title.

Knoch still needs some help to win the section outright. Freeport needs to lose one more game along with Knoch winning its remaining games. If both teams win out, Knoch still would get a share of the section title.

With Sanks and company, Knoch could be poised for a lengthy postseason run.

“We need to play the way we played against Freeport,” Geist said about playing in the playoffs. “The girls have to be really fired up and motivated. They were really motivated to win that game. We have to prepare properly, too.”

Joining Sanks as key contributors are senior middle hitter Mary Zelhart, senior outside hitter Schaely Renfrew and junior setter Katie Bozzo, who Geist describes as a behind-the-scenes contributor.

” I think she would go unnoticed because when you have a good setter, they're getting the ball where they need to,” Geist said. “I think the setting part goes unnoticed because when your sets aren't there, you notice, but when they are there, you don't think about.”

Knoch finished third in section play last year and hasn't won a section title since 2011 when it shared with Mars. Knoch finishes its schedule at home in a pivotal matchup against Mars on Thursday.

D.J. Vasil is a freelance writer.

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