2022 Wilson vs. Hempfield D3 4A Girls Volleyball Final

Melody Butzer (22), Kate Howard (4), and Sarah Hess (28) of Hempfield celebrate after winning the District 3 Class 4A girls volleyball championship against Wilson at Hempfield High School’s Buchanan Gym in Landisville on Thursday, November 3, 2022.

Like a record player on repeat, the hits just keep on coming for the Hempfield girls volleyball team.

The Black Knights won their fourth consecutive District Three Class 4A championship with a thrilling 3-2 victory over Wilson on Thursday night in Landisville.

Melody Butzer dished 59 assists, Addison Leber ripped 27 kills, and Reece Calabretta posted 22 kills and 15 digs as Hempfield rallied from an early hole en route to their 15th overall district title.

“It feels amazing,” senior middle Sarah Hess said. “We’ve been working all season towards moments like these and they’re the best feeling ever.”

“It’s honestly incredible,” Calabretta said. “I’m beyond words happy.”

Wilson stormed out of the gates to win the opening game 25-14. The Black Knights responded to win the next two games 25-13 and 25-19, with the Bulldogs rallying to win game four 25-22.

Both teams gave everything they had in the fifth set with Hempfield ultimately prevailing 15-13.

“It was really nerve-wracking,” Hess said. “We just needed to keep grinding it out. We wanted that district championship so bad. I think that was really a big part of it, just grinding out those points.”

Wilson held leads of 2-0 and 6-5 in the fifth, but a pair of clutch plays from freshmen Sophia Blyznyuk and Kennadi Strassmann helped Hempfield pull ahead.

Kills by Calabretta, Leber and Hess (10 kills, six blocks) kept the Bulldogs at bay, with Leber finally closing it out with a sideline slam.

“For us to go five and win it, that gives them a lot of confidence,” said Knights coach Andrew Olree. “When our backs are against the wall, we can still win it.”

Wilson came out especially strong on the block and it gave Hempfield fits in the opening game. But an adjustment by Olree and Butzer (five kills, 11 digs) allowed the Knights to settle into the match.

“We were running a little more tempo to try to spread them out,” Olree said. “They had to stick with our middles, because our middles can swing, and it freed them both (Leber and Calabretta) up a half a second more.”

Calabretta recorded two aces during an 8-0 service run in game two. Kills by Hess and Leber extended the lead to 20-10, with a slam by Calabretta off the block tying up the match at a game apiece.

“Defense, hitting, serving, she was just unreal tonight,” Olree said of Calabretta. “We’re a team; every night it could be somebody different and Reece stepped up when the team needed her most.”

Leber, meanwhile, asserted herself early in game three. Kate Howard (17 digs) ripped an ace for an 11-6 advantage.

Paige Brillhart gave the Knights a pair of three-point leads, first with a kill and then with an ace, before Hess finished it off with two kills and block.

Trailing 10-4 in the fourth, Hempfield stormed ahead 14-12 behind two more aces from Brillhart and two kills from Leber. But the Bulldogs pulled away down the stretch to force the deciding game.

“You know, we always like a challenge,” Calabretta said. “Adversity is always good for a team; we learn a lot from it and we come together from it which is very important.”

Both Wilson (20-4) and Hempfield (20-1) will look ahead to next Tuesday for the first round of the PIAA tournament. The Knights are slated to host the fifth-place team out of District One at a site and time to be determined.

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