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Norwin volleyball team seeks return to glory

| Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013, 11:50 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For the Norwin Star
Norwin's Brittany Jones prepares to serve the ball during a match at Franklin Regional on Sept. 10, 2013.
Lillian DeDomenic | For the Norwin Star
Norwin senior Catherine Ferragonio rises to hit the ball during a match against Franklin Regional on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, at Franklin Regional.

Norwin's current girls volleyball players know all about the storied history of their program.

Banners documenting the Knights' run of 15 WPIAL championships and 12 PIAA titles from 1974-88 are on the walls of the Norwin gymnasium.

Every so often, the current players find themselves looking at the banners and thinking about the history they represent.

“I think we look at it like building blocks,” senior Hannah Cubarney said. “You kind of do look at the banners on the wall. They set a standard, and you want to reach that standard. You want to keep building on it each season. All the other players on the team want to meet that standard and exceed it.”

“It's motivation,” senior Hanna Evanchak said.

The past 25 years haven't been as kind to Norwin girls volleyball as the previous 15. The Knights haven't won a WPIAL championship since 1988, and their last section title came in 2006.

But Norwin is making strides at becoming that championship team again. The team reached the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since '06 last season and matched that accomplishment this season. With wins over Latrobe on Tuesday and Penn-Trafford on Thursday, Norwin will win the section championship.

“If you don't build on what you've done, then you're never going to move ahead and get stronger or better,” said coach Mary Ellen Ferragonio, who played for Norwin's WPIAL and PIAA championship-winning teams in 1976 and '77. “I think whatever you do, you always have to be looking to do better. You reach one goal, and you have to set some new ones.”

Norwin (14-1, 9-1) entered the week playing some of its best volleyball of the season.

Since a loss to Hempfield in their first section match of the season, the Knights have won 12 matches in a row.

During the run, Norwin posted key victories over two-time defending section champion Penn-Trafford and Hempfield in a rematch Oct. 1.

“We knew that if we wanted to have a chance at winning the section, (the Hempfield match) was a game we really had to work hard in and play to the best of our abilities,” senior Catherine Ferragonio said.

The Knights are led by a seniors Alexis Boytim, Cubarney, Evanchak, Ferragonio, Brittany Jones and Alexis Petach.

At setter, sophomore Maria Ferragonio stepped in for injured senior Lindsay Smith (torn ACL). Other key underclassmen include juniors Laura Buchanan, Lauren Dolney, Molly Parker and Reilly Parker.

With the team in the postseason, Norwin hopes to avoid the disappointment it experienced last season, when the Knights lost to Pine-Richland, 3-2, in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.

“I think taking from that experience especially, we'll be able to push forward,” Evanchak said.

Doug Gulasy is a freelance writer.

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