Norwin volleyball proud of season despite early playoff exit
After winning the WPIAL Section 1-AAA title last season and advancing to the PIAA playoffs, the Norwin girls volleyball team had high expectations entering the season.
But while this year’s second round WPIAL playoff exit may not have matched their success from 2013, the team is still content with the way the season went.
“I feel like it was a success. I think every coach wants to go further,” said head coach Mary Ellen Ferragonio. “You always want to win one more game or one more round…but I’m happy with the team, and with the way they played as a team.”
Finishing the season with an 11-1 record, the Knights ended the year as co-section champions, finishing atop the section for the second year in a row.
“I think winning our section last year really put a target on our backs…it was nice to defend that title,” said senior middle/right-side hitter Laura Buchanan.
Entering the playoffs, the Knights were faced with a matchup against Section 4-AAA runner-up Oakland Catholic where Norwin was able to use the confidence gained from its stellar regular season to carry it to a 3-0 victory.
“They went into the match gung-ho and confident because they made the playoffs and were pretty excited about that,” said Ferragonio. “We happened to get the momentum and it’s such a game of momentum that it kind of helped us along.”
But Norwin’s season ended in the following round, with a 3-1 quarterfinal loss to Mt. Lebanon.
“Mt. Lebanon is very good…I think we got a little bit tentative but Mt. Lebanon played strong the whole way through,” said Ferragonio.
“We’re happy with how they played and how they did,” she added. “We couldn’t ask for more than their best effort.”
The end of the season marks the departure of a strong senior class, one that last season helped lead the Knights to their first section title since 2006.
Buchanan, along with outside hitter Molly Parker, defensive specialists Reilly Parker and Kara Dally, middle/outside hitter Lauren Dolney and middle hitter Cassie Modrak, comprise a senior class that will be missed.
“I love playing with them,” Buchanan said. “They’re such a great, talented group of girls and I’m really going to miss playing with them. They’re all so good and they all bring different aspects to the court.”
But the Knights also welcome back a group of strong underclassmen next year, led by junior setter Maria Ferragonio and outside hitter Danielle Nese, a group that is already looking forward to the 2015 campaign.
“The first day (after the loss) the girls already asked when they can get back in the gym…I think we have a lot coming up that really love the game and are willing to work hard so we’re looking forward to next season,” said Mary Ellen Ferragonio.
Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.