HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS' VOLLEYBALL: Indiana reaches WPIAL semifinals, sets up rematch with Hopewell
FOX CHAPEL — It’s a rematch. Just don’t tell the Indiana High School girls’ volleyball team that.
Indiana got past Elizabeth Forward in three games, 25-15, 25-20, 25-17, in a WPIAL Class AA quarterfinal match Tuesday night at Fox Chapel High School, setting up another semifinal showdown with Hopewell.
Hopewell, which beat Seton LaSalle on Tuesday, defeated the Indians in four games in last year’s WPIAL semifinals. The two teams will square off again at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at North Hills High School for the right to play for the WPIAL championship.
“Same time, same round, almost same place,” Indiana coach Malinda Oesterling said. “I think last year we played at North Allegheny instead of North Hills.”
That’s where the similarities end for Indiana (16-0), the top overall seed in the Class AA bracket.
“It’s a different year,” Oesterling said. “Out of all these girls, I only have a few that have heavy varsity experience, and I’m hoping they don’t even think about last year. Don’t even think about it. This is a new year. So all that other stuff from last year, it doesn’t even matter. They’re two different teams anyway.”
“It’s been great,” sophomore Brianna Dillon said of her first playoff experience. “I was so excited to be here, to be part of the team, just everyone, all the seniors, all the juniors, all the people who played last year. They’ve just been so good. When we work together we know we can do good things. … I’m just looking forward to Thursday. That’s it.”
The 2013 version of the Indians got through their second playoff match with relative ease, pulling away for big victories in two of the three games with a versatile attack.
“My girls know how to fight,” Oesterling said. “They do. Even if our serve-receive wasn’t as strong as it normally is and we were a little nervous, they buckled down. They did what they had to do. They hit the floor. They went after everything, and give credit to them, they decided that even if our passing isn’t spot-on the way it normally is, we’re not going to lose this. They took control.”
Indiana’s serving was exceptional all match long. Kylie McKirgan served for 11 straight Indiana points, recording two aces, to give the Indians the advantage in Game 1. In Game 3 Dillon led a five-point run.
“Up to this point, we were focused on this game,” Dillon said. “We came in and we knew what we needed to take care of and we did a good job.”
“Isaac Mastalski, he’s our statistician, he’s not there just for decoration,” Oesterling said. “He’s taking statistics all the time and calculating serve-receive averages on the other players, so we’re constantly seeing who’s in a slump, who’s not passing well, who’s consistent, who’s not consistent, and that’s where we’re telling them to go, and the girls do a really good job of trying to hit those spots.”
Elizabeth Forward (11-3) pulled as close as one point late in Game 2, trailing 21-20, but the Indians scored the game’s final four points and didn’t look back, taking a 6-0 lead to start Game 3.
Natalie Cignetti led Indiana in kills, with 13, and added two aces. Aaryn Gray had seven kills. Alexandra Kerr spearheaded the defense with 12 digs and she added two aces.
“I think (we overcame serve-receive struggles) by making something out of the unexpected,” Oesterling said. “So maybe we didn’t get a good pass, but we gave them a decent downball play or we made a tough shot for them to play. We’re not typically a team that gives a lot of free balls and just chucks the ball over, and we have worked really hard on that, so even if our passing is off and we can’t get the quality set we want. We can still generate something that makes the other team work hard. And our serving was good tonight. It really was.”