Knoch's transitions key to quarterfinal volleyball win over Thomas Jefferson
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Not until late in the fourth game of Tuesday's WPIAL Class AA quarterfinal girls volleyball match between Knoch and Thomas Jefferson did Knights coach Diane Geist and her players begin to breathe easy.
Thomas Jefferson's fire-power along the front line has a tendency to cause such anxiety.
Knoch (16-2), the No. 6 seed in Class AA, found a solution for the Jaguars' sizeable star hitters and secured a 3-1 win at Chartiers Valley High School.
The Knights pulled out 25-22 and 25-23 wins in Game 1 and 2, but Thomas Jefferson (17-1) swung momentum back with a big run in their 25-18 win in Game 3. Knoch kept its cool and claimed Game 4, 25-19.
“I knew it wouldn't be a runaway against a team like this,” said Geist, whose Knights will play Section 4 co-champ and No. 2 seed Freeport in the semifinals 6 p.m. Thursday at North Hills. “I'm just sitting there praying on the bench the whole time. In Game 3, it was a little scary, but you just have to realize we still have the lead. I told my players, ‘They're the ones that still have the pressure on them.' ”
Knoch also qualified for the PIAA playoffs.
Junior 6-foot-1 middle and right-side hitter Rachel Stover, responsible for a match-high 18 kills, paced Thomas Jefferson's offense, which featured four girls listed at 5-foot-11 or taller.
Senior 5-11 outside/middle hitter Celina Sanks, an Eastern Kentucky recruit, led Knoch with 12 kills and six blocks, while 5-7 senior Schaely Renfrew and 5-9 senior Mary Zellhart added eight and six kills, respectively.
Thomas Jefferson actually had the biggest lead in Game 1 and 2. The Jaguars led 12-8 in the opening game, but Knoch went on its best run of the evening, a 7-1 swing, to pull ahead. And in Game 2, Thomas Jefferson had a 6-3 lead that also evaporated with a score-tying run by Knoch.
“They had a lot of great ups, and that's something we hadn't seen a lot,” Thomas Jefferson coach Ron Kelly said. “No doubt that was the best defensive team we've seen, plus they always have an out with Celina. I don't know if any other team has an out like that.
“I actually think they should've been rated a lot higher. … I expected every bit of that match.”
Thomas Jefferson's six-point run, which gave the team a 20-15 lead in Game 3, left the Jaguars with enough room for errors.
Though rarely able to run away from Thomas Jefferson, Knoch — which never led by more than five points until the score was 14-9 in Game 4 — closed out strong in each of its wins.
Senior Emily Zilka served an ace to cap Game 1, in which Knoch trailed, 20-19, before it won six of the final eight points.
Senior Savanna Steffen hit a kill to end Game 2, in which the Knights trailed, 22-20, before they won five of the final six points.
The match ended with an unforced error by Thomas Jefferson, which closed its deficit in Game 4 to 22-19 before kills by Sanks and Steffen allowed Knoch to pull away.
“We knew it'd be close,” Zellhart said. “We knew we had to push through every point, and every point mattered. That mindset really helped us.”
Knoch and Freeport split their regular-season meetings, with the Knights winning the more recent one, so their semifinal will serve as all-important rubber match.
“We knew we had to take this one match at a time,” Zellhart said, “but having that (Freeport match) in the back of our minds really pushed us to win.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.