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Bethel Park girls volleyball team eliminates Norwin from states

| Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013, 9:57 p.m.

The Norwin girls volleyball team's longest postseason run since the 1990s ended at the hands of a team making it longest postseason run in program history.

Norwin (15-3) fell in a three-set sweep (25-20, 26-24 and 25-21) to Bethel Park in the PIAA Class AAA quarterfinals Saturday at Baldwin High School. The Black Hawks, who until this season had never advanced past the WPIAL quarterfinals, moved on to the PIAA semifinals, where they will meet Hempfield of District 3 on Tuesday.

“We were pretty well-prepared for them,” Bethel Park coach Shawn Palmer said. “I think we were confident coming in. We had a good three or four days of practice.”

While Bethel Park moved on to the semifinals, Norwin's most successful season since the 1990s ended. The Knights hadn't advanced to the PIAA tournament in more than 15 years.

“I think we had a really good season,” coach Mary Ellen Ferragonio said. “I'm really proud of them. They pushed themselves and played well all season, so you can't take that away from them. They did awesome. Today, we just didn't seem to be able to get it together. Why, I don't know. That's the million-dollar question.”

Norwin particularly struggled in trying to stop Bethel Park hitter Stacey Kazalas, who recorded 16 kills, including nine in a dominant first set.

“The kid can play,” Palmer said. “She's probably our go-to attacker, although we're starting to spread the ball around a little more. When that kid gets on a roll, she's our difference-maker.”

Although Bethel Park took control of the first set midway through, Norwin rebounded with a strong second set. The Knights led for much of the set and held a game point at 24-23, but Bethel Park scored three straight points to prevail.

Ferragonio said the momentum from the end of the second set carried over to the third, when Bethel Park again took control midway through and held on for a victory.

“It seemed like they had more momentum than we had, or most of it,” she said. “I don't know why.”

Olivia Schanck added nine kills for Bethel Park, while Catherine Ferragonio led Norwin with 13 kills.

Coach Ferragonio hopes the momentum from this season carries over for Norwin, which will return several key players in 2014.

“I think in the next few years, from what I see in middle school, we have a pretty nice group coming up each year,” she said. “So I'm excited for what's to come.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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