The Hempfield girls volleyball team faced a daunting task in the opening round of the PIAA tournament on Tuesday night.
Unionville, the third-place finisher out of District One, was a state finalist a year ago and entered this year’s PIAA tournament with just two losses, both of them coming against District One champion Bishop Shanahan.
But if the Black Knights had any reservations coming in, they certainly didn’t show it.
Hempfield bookended a second-set comeback with dominant performances in sets one and three en route to a 3-0 sweep over the Longhorns in Landisville to advance to the PIAA Class 4A quarterfinals.
Up next, Hempfield (21-0) will meet WPIAL runner up Shaler (18-2) in Saturday’s quarterfinal round, at a site and time to be announced.
“It’s a good feeling every time we get a win in states,” Hempfield coach Andrew Olree said. “The state tournament is no joke, especially our bracket. Shaler is a solid team, so we’re just going to do work the next three days and get prepared for them.”
Game scores for Tuesday’s match were 25-19, 25-20 and 25-21. The pivotal stretch came in the second set, with Hempfield closing on a 17-5 run for a commanding 2-0 lead in the match.
“I think we just closed with a lot of energy,” said defensive specialist Kate Howard, whose 6-0 service run erased a 15-9 deficit. “We never gave up. We’re constantly cheering on the bench, and I think that really helps. The whole gym cheering for us helps us not be down and not let us get in our heads.”
Camille De La Torre tallied two kills during the run, with Howard adding a pair of aces. A kill by Nyah Smiley knotted the score at 16-16 before an ace from Allison Cummings and a kill by Joslene Morgan gave Hempfield the lead for good.
A kill by Addison Leber, a push from setter Melody Butzer (36 assists), and a kill by Morgan ultimately closed the set.
De La Torre added a 9-0 service run early in the third set allowing the Black Knights to cruise. Morgan added seven of her team-high 11 kills in the set.
Trailing 24-15, Unionville (20-3) staved off match point with a 6-0 run, but a kill by Sarah Hess (six kills, four blocks) ended the contest.
Longhorns junior Maddy Lowe was a constant force from the outside in the first two sets, totaling 15 kills for the match. But Hempfield’s defense was up to the task, with De La Torre marking her at the net and Cummings (18 digs) and Howard waiting in the back row.
“I knew that they (the Longhorns) ran through Maddy, and she still got a bunch of kills on us,” Olree said. “I think we slowed her down just enough.”
Elizabethtown 3, Council Rock North 2
In a high-drama first-round match that went the limit, the Bears advanced to the quarterfinal round of the PIAA Class 4A playoffs with a five-set —25-23, 16-25, 25-19, 26-28, 15-11 — victory over once-beaten Council Rock North. The victory was the first state playoff win in Bears volleyball history. Saturday, the Bears (20-1) will play North Allegheny, a 3-0 winner over State College on Tuesday night.
The Indians forced a fifth set by scoring the last three points in the fourth to win 28-26. The Bears had battled back from a 22-18 deficit to take a 26-25 lead in the set on a block from Angela Costa-Quimet.
Elizabethtown broke a 19-19 deadlock with six straight points to take the third set, and a 2-1 lead in the match.