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Norwin boys volleyball team breezes to win over Penn Hills

| Thursday, April 3, 2014, 11:18 p.m.

It was over in a heartbeat.

In a boys volleyball match that began 15 minutes earlier than the scheduled starting time because of a quick, one-sided affair in the preliminary junior varsity match, the Norwin varsity team completed a sweep of visiting Penn Hills on Thursday night, dominating the Indians, 3-0, in WPIAL Section 3-AAA play.

Norwin, with a veteran team that includes six seniors, breezed to decisive scores of 25-17, 25-7 and 25-16, despite resting some of its starters for long periods.

“Tonight, we had a chance to see some of our younger players,” Norwin coach Al Warden said. “We have some depth, but we don't have a ton of people to play. I hope we aren't viewed as running up the score at any point if some of our starters stay in there.”

Noticeably absent from the Knights lineup for much of the night were Norwin's tall front-line starters, led by 6-foot-6 senior opposite-side hitter Kevin Zabelski.

He and others played sparingly. Zabelski is joined up front in the starting lineup by 6-3 senior middle hitter Jay Gurschecky and 6-2 senior outside hitter Aaron Shaffer.

“We play very well together as a team,” said senior Dan Conwell, who at 6-4 is the WPIAL's tallest defensive specialist. “We have six seniors, and we're all pretty good friends. That's been a key to our success.”

The other seniors are 6-0 setter Nick Nguyen and 6-1 outside/middle hitter Jake Kljucaric.

Norwin improved to 4-0 in dual matches and has lost just once — to Penn-Trafford at the Derry Tournament on Saturday — in 15 total matches. Teams play just one set in tournament matches.

The loss knocked Norwin from title contention in the tournament after the Knights had beaten Penn-Trafford in an earlier round. Fox Chapel won the Class AAA crown.

“That loss, hopefully, taught us a lesson,” Gurschecky said. “We can't take anyone for granted.

“We have to come in with the same high intensity for every match.”

Norwin played Penn Hills like an aggressive team bidding for its first WPIAL championship. The Knights have settled for runner-up twice, in 2004 and 2012 — both times losing to North Allegheny, which has won seven consecutive titles and 10 of the past 11.

“The WPIAL is wide open, but you've got to go with NA as the favorite. They've been there,” Warden said.

The teams will meet in a nonsection match April 14 at Norwin.

“We've played four teams so far (in dual matches) who are rebuilding and are young,” Warden said. “It's not been a good test for us, but we've looked pretty good against some of the better teams we've played (in tournaments).

“We still have some question marks.”

There could be some answers, beginning with Tuesday's scheduled section match at Plum.

“We were focused tonight,” Warden said, “and we want to remain that way.”

Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dmackall@tribweb.com.

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