Ron Poniewasz Jr.
New Castle News
NEW CASTLE —
The Neshannock High volleyball team wanted a third matchup with Shenango.
And the Lady Lancers worked five games last night to get their wish.
Twelfth-seeded Neshannock rallied from a 2-1 deficit by winning the final two games for a 25-14, 15-25, 22-25, 25-22, 15-11 WPIAL Class A first-round playoff decision over fifth-seeded South Side Beaver at North Allegheny.
The Section 3-A champion Lady Wildcats breezed to the league crown, knocking off the Lady Lancers twice.
“These three seniors that I have thought that maybe we’d never see them again,” said third-year Neshannock coach Andrew Frank of playing Shenango. “I told them, I said in this bracket you have a possibility to see this team again. You have to fight through the first round to get there. If they happen to win, we’re going to face them.
“I’m telling you, they’re hungry to get them. They’re hungry for this next match. As soon as we came off the floor, they found out that Shenango won. They were excited. They want to play that game.”
Neshannock led 14-11 in the deciding game, but the Lady Rams held the serve. Samantha Gibson’s serve rocketed right into the net, she crumbled to the court in disappointment and the Lady Lancers celebrated their victory.
Fourth-seeded Shenango advanced with a 25-9, 25-12, 25-18 win over Vincentian Academy.
Neshannock (14-3) will battle the Lady Wildcats (15-1) on Tuesday at a time and site to be determined. The winner advances to the WPIAL semifinals and also secures a spot in the PIAA playoffs as well with the top four teams out of the WPIAL in Class A reaching the state playoffs.
“That’s great. Just to be able to play them a third time,” said Lady Lancers junior Jordan Wethli. “I think it’s great that we play them again.
“If we win, that’s great for us. We wanted them so bad.”
Wethli led Neshannock with 14 points, 21 kills and three digs.
The Lady Lancers trailed 12-6 and 14-9 in the fourth game, already down 2-1 in games. But Neshannock went on an 8-3 run to tie the game at 17.
The teams battled back and forth for the next few points. With the game tied at 21, it appeared the Lady Rams would take a 22-21 lead because of good placement on a shot over the net to Neshannock. But the Lady Lancers stuck with it, dove around and eventually got the ball over and in for a point and a 22-21 lead.
South Side Beaver tied it at 22, but Taylor Frank, the coach’s daughter, closed the game out with two serving points for a 25-22 victory. She finished with four kills, four points, four aces, four digs and 45 assists.
“When we make amazing plays like that, we have some girls on this team, if not all of them, that don’t mind going to the floor and making great plays,” Andrew Frank said of the team’s 22nd point. “When we do something like that, it immediately rises their spirits and they’re able to let that carry through to the next three or four points. Once we did that, we were in control of the match.”
Both coaches knew after the fourth game that the marathon was close to being decided.
“I told the girls it’s up to you. It’s in your hands now,” Andrew Frank said. “This is what you came here for. You’ve fought to get here. It’s a short game, you have to get on top of them quick.”
Said Lady Rams coach Jason Benkowski, “I told the girls to calm down. Each team needs just one win now. Anyone can win it. I think Neshannock just wanted it a little more.”
There were five ties in the final game and the largest lead was five by Neshannock at 14-9.
“I don’t necessarily think it was nervousness. I think it was more of the fact that we wanted to win,” Wethli said. “It was more adrenaline than nerves for us. Going back and forth, point to point, it’s a great feeling as a player. Once you started getting that momentum, the points just start going up and you know you’ve got it.”
A season of firsts continued for the Lady Lancers. This was the first time Neshannock reached the postseason without playing a preliminary-round match and the first time the program reached the second round of the district playoffs.
“Its exciting for all of us,” Andrew Frank said.
Tayler Grybowski recorded six points and five kills for the winners and Gina Zingaro supplied four aces, four points and three digs.
Madison Altmyer delivered five kills, three points and four digs for Neshannock, while Anna Muraca tallied three points and six kills. Cassidy Burrelli chipped in with six kills and six digs.
Alexis Dhayer paced South Side Beaver with 10 points, eight digs and seven blocks.