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Playoff knowledge helps Norwin in opening match

| Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Doug Gulasy | Norwin Star
Norwin volleyball players Catherine Ferragonio (9), Reilly Parker (in blue), Maria Ferragonio (8) and Molly Parker await an Oakland Catholic serve during a WPIAL Class AAA first-round playoff match on Oct. 23, 2013, at Norwin High School.
Doug Gulasy | Norwin Star
Norwin senior Catherine Ferragonio prepares to serve the ball during a WPIAL Class AAA first-round playoff match against Oakland Catholic on Oct. 23, 2013, at Norwin High School.
Norwin volleyball captains (from left) Hanna Evanchak, Catherine Ferragonio and Hannah Cubarney accept the plaque for the Knights' Section 1-AAA championship before a WPIAL Class AAA playoff match against Oakland Catholic on Oct. 23, 2013, at Norwin High School.

Before the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs even began, members of the Norwin girls volleyball team said they had learned several lessons from a first-round loss to Pine-Richland in 2012.

In their postseason opener last week, the Knights showed off their knowledge.

Norwin captured its first WPIAL playoff victory in a decade, defeating Oakland Catholic, 3-0, Oct. 23 at Norwin High School.

“This time, I think we were mentally prepared,” senior Hannah Cubarney said. “I think us as seniors and people who were here last year were a little more prepared since they had that time under their belts now. It was a little easier.”

Unlike last season, when Norwin held leads of 1-0 and 2-1 over Pine-Richland before falling, 3-2, the Knights never gave Oakland Catholic much of a chance to mount a comeback. Norwin never trailed in the first two games, winning 25-13 and 25-20, and overcame an early 3-0 deficit in the third game to win 25-20.

“I think we realized after we won the first game it's not like we can sit down and they're going to sit down and let us roll over them,” senior Catherine Ferragonio said. “We have to keep pushing and play every game like the first one.”

Norwin coach Mary Ellen Ferragonio said her team exhibited signs of nervousness before the match began. But when Oakland Catholic went on runs to tighten games, the Knights responded.

After Oakland Catholic cut its deficit to 13-12 in the first game, the Knights responded with a 12-1 run to close it out.

A similar situation happened in the final game, after Oakland Catholic cut a 20-15 deficit to 20-19. The Knights scored five of the final six points of the match to win.

“It was just kind of forget about the last play and move on to the next one,” senior Hanna Evanchak said. “Getting hung up on plays like that, that'll bring you down. I think we did a good job tonight of moving past our mistakes, and I think that just goes to show how we've grown as a team.”

Catherine Ferragonio led Norwin with 13 kills, 24 digs and three aces. However, the Knights also received significant statistical contributions from Cubarney (nine kills and two blocks), junior Reilly Parker (14 digs) and sophomore Maria Ferragonio (31 assists).

More than that, Mary Ellen Ferragonio said every player who stepped on the court made an impact in the victory.

“I kind of like that about this team because they all do pick up and do their part, and that makes the whole,” she said. “Without each of them doing that little part, we wouldn't be successful. They're really good about moving the game around to one another.”

With last week's victory, Norwin advanced to the WPIAL quarterfinals for the first time since the 2003 season, when the Knights defeated Bethel Park in the first round before falling to North Allegheny in the quarterfinals.

Norwin was scheduled to play Seneca Valley in the quarterfinals at 6 p.m. Tuesday at North Allegheny High School. The match ended past the deadline for this week's edition.

While the players said they thought the team played well against Oakland Catholic, they added they thought the team could reach higher levels.

“There's definitely always room for improvement,” Cubarney said. “I don't want to say (the Oakland Catholic match) was our very best because we're always pushing ourselves.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830, via email at or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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