Norwin girls gain momentum, shut out rival Penn-Trafford |
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Penn-Trafford's Samantha Kelly (8) defends against Norwin on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017 during WPIAL girls' volleyball at Penn-Trafford High School.

Seven days after suffering a letdown at Connellsville, Norwin junior outside hitter Rachel Langsdorf was eager for another chance to show what the Knights could do.

Being undone by inconsistency had plagued the Norwin girls volleyball team.

There was little in the first set that indicated anything would be different Tuesday night in Harrison City. Norwin was uneven in the first set, letting a nine-point lead slip away against rival Penn-Trafford in a Section 3-AAAA match.

Facing set point, Norwin found a remarkable strike. Two kills from Langsdorf and another from Marissa Farabaugh gave the Knights a 26-24 win en route to a 3-0 sweep of the first-place Warriors.

“This is one of our best games altogether as a team,” said Langsdorf, who had a match-high 13 kills. “Our energy was together, and we were all playing well.”

Norwin (3-2, 3-1) started hot and built a 15-6 lead. That stretch was followed by three consecutive attack errors, allowing Penn-Trafford (6-3) back in the match.

Not long after, Penn-Trafford took a 23-22 lead on a kill by Stephanie O’Donnell. Those stretches aren’t something Knights coach Mary Ellen Ferragonio can explain.

“If I knew the answer, we’d be millionaires,” Ferragonio said. “It’s a game of momentum, and somehow, we got the momentum. At the end, we got lucky really.”

Langsdorf evened the match before O’Donnell added another kill to put the Warriors back ahead, 24-23. O’Donnell led the Warriors with 10 kills.

Then Norwin closed with its big surge. Ferragonio hasn’t been able to put her finger on what made this match different.

“I think they started to work together more as a team,” Ferragonio said. “I think they felt that too, that they didn’t feel all season. This is what it’s supposed to feel like.”

Penn-Trafford struggled with serve-receive throughout the night. The Warriors committed 16 attack errors and were called three times for double touch and net violations. Not winning the first set was tough for the Warriors. Penn-Trafford fell behind 3-1 to start the second set and 8-2 to start the third.

“That was probably not a game we deserved to win, but it would have been nice to pull it out,” coach Jim Schall said. “We were behind all night. We dug ourselves too big of a hole in a lot of the games.”

In the second set, the Warriors were behind 19-18 when Norwin pulled away. An attack error by Penn-Trafford followed by a Mia Nicholes kill allowed the Knights to secure a 25-20 win.

Nicholes finished with seven kills for Norwin.

“It is easier when you are getting a free ball, which is mostly what they got,” Schall said. “We made it pretty easy on them.”

Norwin never trailed in the third set and closed with a 25-11 run to finish the sweep.

“We played together and played with our hearts, and that’s what we did the best,” Langsdorf said.

Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.

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