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Butler volleyball team falls short of goal

| Saturday, May 24, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Matt Huey (16) of Butler attempts a spike on the Maplewood defense as teammate Andrew Paterno (22) looks on during the Spartan Invitational Volleyball Tournament on Saturday, April 12, 2014, at Hempfield High School.
Ken Reabe Jr. | For The Tribune-Review
Matt Huey (16) of Butler attempts a spike on the Maplewood defense as teammate Andrew Paterno (22) looks on during the Spartan Invitational Volleyball Tournament on Saturday, April 12, 2014, at Hempfield High School.

Butler's boys volleyball team hoped to reach the PIAA Class AAA playoffs.

Norwin had other ideas. The Knights defeated the Golden Tornado, 3-1, in the WPIAL quarterfinals.

A bad start doomed Butler (10-6). Norwin won the first game, 25-12. The Golden Tornado nearly bounced back in the second game, but dropped a 25-23 decision. Butler took control in the third game for a 25-14 triumph. However, it lost the momentum in the fourth game and the Knights posted a 25-19 decision.

“Offensively, in the first game, we didn't do a whole lot. We got on track in the second game and it was a seesaw,” Butler coach Lew Liparulo said. “We took control in the third game. Norwin just beat us in that fourth game. The kids played well. Norwin is a very good team. They played well; we just made more mistakes.”

The loss ended the Golden Tornado's season. Butler, which finished fourth in its section at 7-5, believed it had a shot at winning a WPIAL championship.

“A lot of the coaches I talked to thought any team could make it to the WPIAL finals this year,” Liparulo said. “I am happy with how they did. We were disappointed not making states. It happens, though. We didn't make playoffs last year. This year, I thought we were right up in the mix.”

The Golden Tornado saw just how intense the competition was in its first-round playoff match against Peters Township. The Indians posted a 25-21 win in the first game, but Butler rallied to claim the second game, 26-24. The squad held on to take the third game, 25-19, and it fought off Peters Township for a 25-21 win in the fourth game.

“Even seeding teams for the tournament had to be difficult because of the closeness of the teams,” Liparulo said. “I think boys volleyball, as a whole, has gotten better. The kids are playing better and the rallies are longer. When you see the scores, you don't see a lot of zeroes.”

Three senior starters graduate for the Golden Tornado. Mainstays Matt Huey (middle hitter), Matt Rudzki (outside hitter) and Josh Kaufman (defensive specialist) depart. They were lauded for their leadership.

“Having a lot of seniors on a team is such a gift. Not only do you see them develop their skills, but they give a lot of leadership,” Liparulo said. “We had a group of good, hardworking kids this year. We're hoping that attitude carries on every year.”

Butler has a lot of juniors returning, such as setter Andrew Paterno, middle hitter Robert Kunst, libero Chris Fiorina, right-side hitter Keenan Krause, outside hitter Stephen Kriley and defensive specialist Gabe Baroffio.

“We're hoping we can maintain this level next year,” Liparulo said. “Volleyball is a funny sport. We had a very small lineup, but these guys were committed and put a lot of time in the gym. As a coach, you want your guys in the gym as much as possible, but a lot of our guys play other sports. You never know what you have until the season starts, so we'll see.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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