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Kittanning rolls in preliminary-round win over Ambridge

| Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, 12:06 a.m.
Bill Shirley | For The Leader Times
Kittanning's Casey Harkleroad hits a spike against an Ambridge defender during a preliminary-round win in the WPIAL Class AA playoffs Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013, at Fox Chapel.

Whoever seeded Kittanning into a preliminary round game might be second-guessing that decision after Tuesday's match.

The Wildcats were dominant from start to finish and easily advanced to the first round by picking up a 3-0 win over Ambridge in a WPIAL Class AA preliminary round match at Fox Chapel.

Kittanning (11-3) won by set scores of 25-6, 25-12 and 25-15 and finished the match in under an hour. Kirsten Wolfe had 10 kills, and Casey Harkleroad added nine kills and four blocks for the Wildcats, who will go on the road to face No. 3 Thomas Jefferson in the first round Thursday.

Terra Schall added seven kills for Kittanning, while Nicole Kuhn led Ambridge (6-7) with five kills.

It was the fifth consecutive year that Kittanning has played a preliminary round game, and the Wildcats have won that match every time. None of the previous four wins were as dominant as this one, however, as Kittanning looked like a completely different team from the one that was upset by Ford City last week.

“I'm real proud of them tonight because they came out strong and they stayed strong. They didn't waver once in that game,” Kittanning coach Kara Grafton said. “Coming off last week, I think our girls' heads are back in it, and they've been working hard. This is the Kittanning team I'm used to seeing.”

“Practice was rough the next day (after the loss). I don't even want to talk about that,” Wolfe said. “We just needed to step it up and play our game. Being my senior year, I want to keep pushing and see if we can go farther than we have in previous years.”

Wolfe started the charge for Kittanning by picking up the team's first two kills of the match. Megan Wilson established Kittanning's advantage at the service line in the opening set, as she rattled off 10 straight service points, including two aces, to give the Wildcats an 18-3 lead.

The second set was a showcase of Kittanning's strength in the middle. Harkleroad recorded four of her kills during the set, while Emily Klingensmith and Megan Cloak also chipped in with a team blocking performance that stifled Ambridge's attack and limited the Bridgers to just 18 kills in the match.

“The girls are really looking good, and I think they're ready to go,” Grafton said. “They were on top of their game tonight. They performed well, and they really played as a team, which I'm very pleased with.”

The third was Ambridge's best set with Kuhn and Lauren Detrick (four kills) finishing more plays, but by that point the Wildcats were well on their way to the next round.

The match ended with the Kittanning's top attackers, Harkleroad and Wolfe, finishing off the Wildcats' final two points.

“We usually play this well, and playing against a lot of top teams in the (Norwin) tournament last weekend helped us get a lot of energy out there,” Wolfe said. “Now we just need to get ready for the next game. We're not going to let up at all.”

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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