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Norwin readies for PIAA volleyball playoffs

| Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013, 11:21 p.m.

The Norwin girls volleyball team received a good omen before its WPIAL Class AAA consolation match against Shaler even began Saturday.

“When we came in the gym this morning, (there was a) lucky penny on our court,” coach Mary Ellen Ferragonio said. “That happened the night (we played Seneca Valley in the quarterfinals) when we got there: lucky penny.”

When the match began, the Knights showed they had more than just luck on their side.

Norwin started and finished strong, clinching a PIAA tournament berth with a 3-0 victory over Shaler at Chartiers Valley. The Knights will play in the state tournament for the first time in more than 15 years.

“It's exciting to be the team that took us there after all those years,” senior Hanna Evanchak said.

Unlike Thursday, when Norwin succumbed to nerves in a 3-0 semifinal loss to North Allegheny, the Knights didn't let the stage affect them.

Norwin and Shaler battled through a tight first set before the Knights pulled away late. A 6-0 run helped the team win the first game, 25-19.

The second game saw more of the same, as Shaler fought through two game points before Norwin came away with a 26-24 victory.

“(The second game was) very important,” said senior Catherine Ferragonio, who led Norwin with 10 kills. “Whenever a team takes a game from you where you're ahead, I feel like your momentum goes down a lot. It changes. So we wanted to make sure we had that second game in our pockets.”

A 6-0 run midway through the third game enabled Norwin to take control and come away with a 25-18 victory to end the match.

Evanchak and junior Laura Buchanan added seven kills each for the Knights, while senior Hannah Cubarney led the team with three blocks.

“We try to keep our errors as low as we can, and we definitely try to move the ball around,” Cubarney said.

The Knights will begin the state playoffs at District 10 champion Erie McDowell on Tuesday night. The Trojans lost to WPIAL teams in the first round of the PIAA playoffs each of the past two seasons.

“There's a lot of pressure, I guess you could say,” Evanchak said. “But at the same time, it's equally matched by how proud we are and how accomplished we feel.”

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