Ford City volleyball captures school’s 1st WPIAL championship since 1988 |

Ford City volleyball captures school’s 1st WPIAL championship since 1988

Ed Thompson | For Trib Total Media
Ford City volleyball team members raise the WPIAL Class AA championship trophy after a victory over Thomas Jefferson in the title game Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014, at Baldwin.

Ford City put an exclamation point on the final girls volleyball season in school history.

The No. 4 Sabers (18-1) won the first WPIAL volleyball in school history, defeating Thomas Jefferson, 3-2, in the championship match Saturday afternoon at Baldwin High School.

“It’s crazy,” said Justyne Lasher, who had a team-high 19 kills. “Who would ever think that little old Ford City, who’s never done anything with volleyball, would come out and be WPIAL champions?”

Before this season began, Ford City had never won a section title and had never advanced beyond the WPIAL quarterfinals.

On the strength of a 14-match winning streak, the Sabers accomplished both this year. They defeated defending WPIAL champion Freeport in the semifinals Thursday night and followed that up by winning Ford City’s first WPIAL championship in any sport since 1988.

It will also mark the school’s last WPIAL championship in girls volleyball, as Ford City will merge with Kittanning at the conclusion of the 2014-15 school year.

“It’s a great way to go out,” Ford City coach Andrea Lasher said. “We have our shirts that say it’s the end of an era, but the girls have left their mark, made history many times over and over again. I can’t ask for any more. And we’ve still got more to play.”

Saturday’s match was a close one, as Ford City rallied from deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 and won the deciding fifth set, 15-13.

“Both teams played well,” Thomas Jefferson coach Ron Kelly said. “Both teams made a couple service errors, and both teams made a couple hitting errors. But both teams made a lot of great defensive plays. That’s what it’s supposed to look like in a championship, I believe. That was a good match.”

No. 2 Thomas Jefferson (17-1), playing in its first WPIAL title match since 2001, won the first set 25-16 behind the play of 6-foot-2 middle hitter Rachel Stover. Stover had four kills in the first set and finished with 20 in the match.

But as the match went on, the Sabers — who have no starters taller than 5-foot-9 — battled back on defense. They kept Thomas Jefferson’s taller front line from dominating the match.

“We may be little, but we are mighty and we are quick,” Andrea Lasher said. “(Being) quick makes a lot of difference on defense.”

“They made a lot of great digs,” Kelly said. “Other teams didn’t make those digs on us.”

Still, Ford City needed to rally. After the Sabers won the second set, 25-20, to even the match, Thomas Jefferson retook the lead with a 25-19 victory in the third set.

A late 8-0 run late in the fourth set, highlighted by two service aces by Kenzie Lasher, helped the Sabers win 25-16 and tie the match again.

Ford City never trailed in the fifth set, leading by as many as four points and overcoming a Thomas Jefferson rally that tied the set at 13. A TJ pass sailed long to give the Sabers the lead, and they clinched the title when Blair Willyard and Tyree Freeman combined on a block.

“I was so happy,” Justyne Lasher said. “I didn’t know whether to cheer or cry. It was just a lot of emotions.”

Ford City advances to the PIAA tournament, where the Sabers will play the second-place team from District 10 in the first round Tuesday night at a time and site to be determined.

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.