HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL: INDIANA 3, FORD CITY 0
Nearly every time Ford City turned up the heat, one of Indiana’s offensive weapons responded and confidently answered the bell, particularly in the late stages of the last two games.
The Indians got off to a sluggish start for their standards but found great rhythm toward the end of each game and swept Ford City, 25-17, 27-25, 25-20, in a WPIAL Section 3-AA girls’ volleyball match Wednesday at Fifth Street Gymnasium.
The Indians, who have gotten off to a 4-0 start for the sixth straight year, travel to Derry on Friday.
“That seems to be the way we’ve been playing. We tend to do better when we have more time to play,” Indiana coach Malinda Oesterling said.
The Sabers exchanged blows with the Indians for the better part of Game 1 until senior outside hitter Aaryn Gray notched four straight service points, the last of which was an ace, to put Indiana ahead 17-12.
Senior outside hitter Natalie Cignetti walloped back-to-back kills before dropping an ace in the middle of the court to stretch Indiana’s lead to 24-15.
Gray then sealed the 25-17 win with an emphatic kill off of Christina Davis’ hands and out of bounds.
“It’s great to see those seniors step up, and some of them haven’t even come into a varsity role until this year,” Oesterling said.
“Only Natalie and Aaryn have serious experience from the last few seasons, but the rest of them have stepped up and taken on varsity roles. It’s very nice to see.”
Ford City and Indiana engaged in a dogfight in Game 2, playing to 18 ties before the Indians delivered the game’s last two blows.
Cignetti first broke a 25-25 tie by smashing a Brianna Dillon pass into the Sabers’ back row to make it 26-25. She then swatted another kill off a Dillon feed, this time pounding it off the hands of a Ford City blocker and out of bounds to seal a 27-25 win.
“We definitely started slow, but our coaches really pushed us,” Cignetti said. “They really pushed us to be stronger and to be more confident. We finally started to move our feet later in the matches, and that made a huge difference for us.”
Ford City kept things close in Game 3 before Cignetti notched kills on three of four points to give the Indians a 13-10 lead.
Two kills apiece from Cignetti, Gray and senior outside hitter Jill Bender helped Indiana win 11 of the next 20 points to force game point at 24-20.
Cignetti, who uses a high-risk and high-velocity jump-serve, perfectly ripped an ace in a hole in the middle of the Sabers’ court to end the match at 25-20.
“We definitely gameplanned to stop her, but it was difficult,” Ford City coach Andrea Hankey-Lasher said of Cignetti. “She’s just a tremendous hitter with a lot of power in her swings, and she can get up above the net. We were able to contain her at times, especially in the early parts of the first few games, but once she got more in sync with their setter, she was tough to stop.”
Cignetti credited her setter, Dillon, a first-year starter, for helping the team achieve such high-level offensive cohesiveness at such a young stage of the season. Dillon finished with 35 assists.
“She’s really young and this is her first year playing varsity, but she’s incredible,” Cignetti said. “She’s improving every single day and her sets really match up with what we want. She’s doing great, even with all the pressure of being an underclassman on a varsity team. She’s just doing a great job.”