HOPEWELL TOWNSHIP — Just have fun.
Essentially, those were the words Neshannock High volleyball coach Andrew Frank offered to his team when it was on the brink of elimination last night.
It worked as the Lady Lancers avoided a Fort Cherry upset bid to post a 3-2 triumph in a WPIAL Class A first round match at Hopewell. Neshannock (12-1) won by scores of 25-4, 21-25, 13-25, 25-15, 15-3.
“My coaching style has always been to stay as positive as possible,” Frank said. “I wanted to bring them back to the positive aspect of why they were here and what they’ve been working for five or six years and they realized they could do this.”
The Lady Lancers proved they could thrive in the postseason last year when they advanced to the WPIAL semifinals and reached the PIAA tournament for the first time in program history.
“I think there is expectation now,” Frank said. “I think the expectation got to them a little bit. They just have to play and have fun.”
The team, which meets Avonworth, a 3-1 winner over Bentworth, in Tuesday’s quarterfinals at a time and site to be determined by the WPIAL, hopes for another deep playoff run this fall. It began its postseason journey in dominant fashion with an easy win in the first game. However, Neshannock struggled with errors in the second game.
“It feels awesome to move on; it’s the greatest feeling,” said Neshannock’s Taylor Frank, who is the coach’s daughter. “I think our team was getting a little down the second and third game. I think it’s a really good trait of our team that we can dig ourselves out and we work as a unit.”
The Lady Lancers’ difficulties carried over to the third game as well and they struggled to find any offensive rhythm.
“I think they relaxed a little bit after the first game and our passing started going bad. Once that happened, it got to them,” Andrew Frank said. “As I have stressed to them since they were freshmen, the passing team wins. If you can pass, you can win because you can run offense. I think what happened is they made a couple bad passes and it got in their heads that they had to be perfect and that made it worse. Once we stop running offense, then we’re not as good as we can be.”
Neshannock refocused in the fourth game. Laughter and smiles returned to the Lady Lancers’ faces and they pulled away to force the deciding fifth game. The team’s enthusiasm was contagious then, too, as it rolled to the 15-3 win.
“That makes all the difference,” Taylor Frank said. “When our team is up and happy like that, that’s the best we’ll ever play.”
Senior Tayler Grybowski sparked the Lady Lancers in the fifth game. With a 5-3 lead, she served two-straight aces. After a Jordan Wethli kill, Grybowski had two more aces as the squad pulled away.
“She was huge. Tayler has stepped up her serving game from last year to this year,” Andrew Frank said. “The confidence is there and you can see it at the line. She was in the groove.”
Wethli was on fire, too. She had five kills in the fifth game. She led the team with 18 points and 15 kills.
“Once she is on and she has confidence that she can do it, she just goes up and crushes the ball,” Andrew Frank said.
Grybowski finished with 17 points, eight kills and eight aces. Cassidy Burrelli had 10 points, six kills and four aces, while Taylor Frank added 30 assists, 10 points, four kills and four aces.