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Kittanning, Leechburg start WPIAL volleyball playoffs Tuesday

| Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013, 12:51 a.m.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Freeport's Megan Sweeney lands a spike against Mars' Cassie McKernan on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013, at Mars High School.

Four local teams will be a part of the WPIAL girls volleyball playoffs, and they don't have long to play.

Kittanning and Leechburg were handed preliminary-round games in a doubleheader at Fox Chapel at 6 p.m. Tuesday, the first day of postseason play. West Shamokin and Freeport received high seeds and will begin play later in the week.

Leechburg will play the first match Tuesday against Brentwood. The winner will face third-seeded Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in the Class A first round Thursday. Kittanning's match is at 7:30 p.m., and the Wildcats will face Ambridge for the chance to play Class AA No. 3 Thomas Jefferson on Thursday.

This will be the fifth straight year in the postseason for the Wildcats. Each time, Kittanning has been handed a preliminary-round match that leads to one of the top seeds.

“(The matchup) is pretty much what I expected,” Kittanning coach Kara Grafton said. “It's been the same every year I've been coaching, so I had a feeling we'd be playing Tuesday.”

The Wildcats are hoping this will be the year they can pick up more than one playoff win. Doing so against Thomas Jefferson would be a tough task. But Kittanning has prepared itself for top competition this season, most recently by competing in a tournament last weekend at Norwin that featured the host Knights, Greensburg Central Catholic and Class AA top-seed Indiana.

“We had a really good tournament and finished fourth. There was a lot of up-tempo play, and it's always nice to have that going into the playoffs,” Grafton said. “I think our girls are excited to play, and they have expectations to win that first game and make it back to the first round like we have in the past.”

Atop Kittanning's half of the Class AA bracket is Freeport, which was awarded the No. 2 seed for the second straight year. The Yellowjackets will host a first-round playoff game at 7:30 p.m. Thursday against the winner of a preliminary-round game between Quaker Valley and Derry.

For Freeport, this year's postseason goal is avoiding their fate from last year, when seventh-seeded Ambridge upset the Yellowjackets in the quarterfinals.

“I think we had a wake-up call last year. I don't think we were prepared, and hopefully, we learned our lesson from that match,” Freeport coach Tom Phillips said. “You have to prepare from everybody, and you have to stay aggressive.

“There are certain teams you have good feelings about, and I do with this team. They've proven that they can play with anyone.”

In Class A, West Shamokin was seeded sixth and will face Avonworth in a first-round match at Shaler at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The Wolves occupy the same quarter of the bracket as Leechburg, which means the winner of their first-round match will face OLSH or the Leechburg/Brentwood winner.

“I thought it was a pretty bizarre bracket,” West Shamokin coach Dan Spencer said. “I'm OK with us getting a six-seed, but Avonworth at 11 is a pretty big reach. They were one of the top five or six teams all year, so I'm surprised they dropped that low.”

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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