New Castle News

October 30, 2013

WPIAL Volleyball Playoffs: Neshannock girls outlast Shenango in thriller

Joe Sager
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Jordan Wethli is not a fan of having her shots blocked.

However, when her final one last night deflected off a pair of Shenango defenders and landed off the volleyball court, she and her Neshannock teammates celebrated.

It proved to be the winning point in the fifth game to cap the Lady Lancers’ 16-25, 25-16, 25-13, 20-25, 15-13 upset victory over Shenango in a WPIAL Class A quarterfinal at Avonworth High School’s David R. Williams Gymnasium.

“I hate being blocked,” the diminutive Wethli said. “Being as short as I am, there’s literally nothing I can do about it. But, seeing it go out was nice. I am pretty speechless — it was such a nice way to win. The girls played their hearts out and Shenango put up a great game.”

The win was Neshannock’s first over the Lady Wildcats this year. Shenango won both matches during the regular season en route to the Section 3-A championship. This time, though, the Lady Lancers prevailed in an intense thriller.

“What a great match and a great way to win a match. Wow! It was just unbelievable. These girls that I have right now are fighters,” Neshannock coach Andrew Frank said. “We took a match away from a great Shenango team. That is a great team and I have a lot respect for their players, coaches, athletic director — they have a great program. We just upset a very good program and I am very proud of my girls for hanging in when they could have lost their composure.”

Neshannock (15-3) moves on to the semifinals, where it meets top-seeded Bishop Canevin (18-0), a 3-0 winner over Serra, at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at North Allegheny. In addition, the Lady Lancers earned a PIAA playoff berth since the WPIAL sends four teams to that tournament.“What a great step for this program,” Frank said. “To be able to go to the next round and to have an opportunity to go to states — what a great, great thing for this program.”

Neshannock, the 12th seed, gets a chance to extend its historic run by two more matches, at least.

“It’s so nice because our program has never been here before. We’ve never made it past the first round,” Wethli said. “To make it past the first and the second and knowing we’re going to states is just a great accomplishment and I think we should all be proud of ourselves. We don’t want to stop just yet.”

The Lady ’Cats opened with a 25-16 win in the first game. They erased an 11-8 deficit with a 17-5 run to claim victory.

However, the Lady Lancers claimed the next two. In the second game, they broke a 12-all tie with a 13-4 run to post the win. In the third game, Shenango’s Christina Rapone served six-straight points to erase a deficit and gave the squad a 16-14 edge. With the score tied, 23-all, a bad serve gave the Lady Lancers a 24-23 edge and Anna Muraca’s block ended the game.

The Lady ’Cats overcame a 13-9 deficit in the fourth game and seized the momentum to post a 25-20 victory.

 “Usually, we’re down 2-1. To be on the other side was fantastic. Just to have that lead gives you such a confidence boost,” Wethli said. “We knew Shenango would come back. When we walked on the court for the fourth game, we knew they’d come back hard and they did.”

Neshannock never trailed in the deciding fifth game. Jacqui Baker’s block cut Shenango’s deficit to 10-9, but Cassidy Burrelli, Taylor Frank and Tayler Grybowski followed with kills to give the Lady Lancers a 13-9 edge. The Lady ’Cats trimmed the score to 14-12 on Katie Lacey’s kill, but Neshannock got the final two points to secure the upset.

“Anyone could come back in a game. With players like they have, they can do it easily,” Wethli said. “Two teams that are just good competitors with each other, that’s how it’s going to be. Sometimes, it’s just about who wants it more.”

Wethli led Neshannock with 29 points, 23 kills and six aces. Taylor Frank had 44 assists, four kills, four digs and five points. Grybowski finished with six points, five kills and three blocks. Burrelli had nine points and six kills, while Madison Altmyer had five kills and six points. Courtney Proctor added five kills and five points.

The loss ended the fourth-seeded Shenango’s season at 15-2. The Lady ’Cats lose a key player to graduation in Jade Esposito, but return a talented nucleus.

“I think the pressure was a lot on our freshmen. I think they still competed magnificently for having no playoff experience. They fought hard and I don’t think they left anything on the court,” Shenango coach Angela Heagy said. “The biggest thing about being in the playoffs, with the loud environment and people yelling and you can’t hear each other, is the match experience. (To get back here is) a nice goal for the returning players to set for next year and to get into the right mindset for playoffs. It’s disappointing our senior had to lose in the playoffs, but it’s still a great season for her. She had a tremendous season and she’s an all-WPIAL player.”

Rapone led Shenango with 29 assists and six aces. Esposito had 35 digs. Irene Koury had 10 kills, while Baker finished with five blocks.