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Ford City girls volleyball upsets playoff-bound Kittanning

Matt Grubba | Leader Times - Ford City players (from left) Ally Cujas, Abbey DiGregorio and Stephanie DiGregorio rush to greet back-row teammates Morgan Hollabaugh (21) and Andrea DiGregorio (5) after winning a critical third-set point in the Sabers 3-0 win over Kittanning on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, in Ford City.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Matt Grubba  |  Leader Times</em></div>Ford City players (from left) Ally Cujas, Abbey DiGregorio and Stephanie DiGregorio rush to greet back-row teammates Morgan Hollabaugh (21) and Andrea DiGregorio (5) after winning a critical third-set point in the Sabers 3-0 win over Kittanning on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, in Ford City.
Matt Grubba | Leader Times - Kittanning's Megan Cloak (right) pushes a shot around the block of Ford City's Christina Davis (18) and Justyne Lasher (3) during the Sabers 3-0 win over Kittanning on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, in Ford City.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Matt Grubba  |  Leader Times</em></div>Kittanning's Megan Cloak (right) pushes a shot around the block of Ford City's Christina Davis (18) and Justyne Lasher (3) during the Sabers 3-0 win over Kittanning on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, in Ford City.
Matt Grubba | Leader Times - Kittanning libero Maggie McCanna gets low to dig a ball in the Wildcats' 3-0 loss against Kittanning on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, in Ford City.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Matt Grubba  |  Leader Times</em></div>Kittanning libero Maggie McCanna gets low to dig a ball in the Wildcats' 3-0 loss against Kittanning on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, in Ford City.
Matt Grubba | Leader Times - Ford City outside hitter Sarah Heddinger elevates for a shot as Kittanning's Emily Klingensmith (18) and Megan Cloak (15) move in for the block during Sabers 3-0 win over Kittanning on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, in Ford City.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Matt Grubba  |  Leader Times</em></div>Ford City outside hitter Sarah Heddinger elevates for a shot as Kittanning's Emily Klingensmith (18) and Megan Cloak (15) move in for the block during Sabers 3-0 win over Kittanning on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, in Ford City.

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Kittanning is headed to the girls volleyball playoffs, but on the final night of section play, Ford City got the upper hand over its rival.

Sophomore Justyne Lasher had a match-high 17 kills, and the Sabers played an active defensive game on their home floor for senior night to spring a Section 3-AA upset, 3-0 over Kittanning on Tuesday.

Junior Stephanie DiGregorio added seven kills and three aces for Ford City (6-7, 5-5), which will miss the playoffs, but its eight senior players leave with the team's first win over Kittanning (9-3, 7-3) since 2008.

“We've been dreaming about this night because it's Kittanning, and the fact that it's senior night makes it so amazing,” Ford City senior Morgan Hollabaugh said.

“I've never seen our team play like this, at least not (in a match). This is really the first time we brought it all together as a team, and it was amazing.”

Ford City captured the momentum of the match by fighting off a pair of set points in the opening set.

Back-to-back kills by Christina Davis and Lasher tied the set at 24-24 before an ace from senior Sarah Heddinger allowed DiGregorio to end the set with a kill on the next point. After picking up a 26-24 win, the Sabers swept the match by taking the next two sets by identical 25-20 scores.

“I think from the beginning, we knew we were going to pull it out,” Ford City senior Kylie Minnich said. “We're one of those teams that, once we get pumped up, there's no stopping us.”

Kirsten Wolfe had nine kills, and Emily Klingensmith had eight to lead Kittanning, which already had clinched second place in the section last week. But the Wildcats never seemed to get things going against Ford City, which did an excellent job of fighting off the attack of Kittanning's top hitters.

“Ford City played a great game, and their blocking was on point,” said Kittanning coach Kara Grafton, a Ford City graduate. “It was their senior night, they came to play, and they deserved what they got.”

As for her team, Grafton said she hopes the match serves as a lesson for her players entering the postseason.

“I hope it's a wake-up call for our girls because this season, I've seen a different team than the one that was out here tonight.

That is not a typical performance from the Kittanning volleyball team,” Grafton said.

The Sabers looked as though they might put Kittanning away with ease in the third set when they opened up a 10-2 lead, but the Wildcats fought back to tie the score by winning nine of the next 10 points.

Kittanning even opened up a 16-14 lead, and a comeback looked possible, but Ford City surged ahead for good with five straight points on the serve of Hollabaugh.

Minnich ended the match with a cross-court finish, and the Sabers' bench raced onto the court in celebration.

“We've had an on-and-off season all year, so at the end, it was like, ‘Please, let's get these final points,' ” Minnich said. “But to end our senior night like that was so great.”

“We wanted (to make the playoffs), but if there was any other way we could have picked to end our season, this would be it,” Hollabaugh said.

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mgrubba@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Grubba_Trib.

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