Williamson advances to state final
COAL TWP. - The Williamson High School girls volleyball team feared the unknown long before it met Marian in their PIAA Class A semifinal on Tuesday night.
The Lady Warriors didn't know what they were up against as their undefeated season was in the balance. But when push came to shove, and when both sides hit the middle of the opening set, Williamson knew it would have no more fears.
Ganging up at the net with a tall and rangy frontline, the Warriors outmaneuvered the Fillies time and again and did something that no other team could do this season - sweep the District 11 champions in three sets to earn a berth in Saturday's state championship match.
The win was something even the most optimistic Warrior couldn't foretell, especially after a tight 25-23 opening set decision, before things snowballed on Marian 25-18 and finally 25-17.
"We didn't know what to expect," said Williamson senior Kim Daugherty, one of those tall frontline players said. "We looked and searched everywhere to find something out about (Marian). The only thing we knew was they were a (private) school. Actually, I was more nervous and more afraid of this game than any we played all season."
Sometimes the less you know the better you are, for outside hitter Whitney Hurlburt had more or less felt that way, especially after things settled down and ran according to Hoyle for her side.
"Once we started to (push) them... about halfway through that first set, I felt that we could win this," Hurlburt mentioned.
Marian never looked itself, save for an early run at the onset of the first game. The Fillies' biggest issues came as the result of service sets and return errors. They committed 11 total errors, including six service mistakes, in the first set alone.
"That's 12 points we gave away," Marian coach Dr. John Fallabel lamented of the six errors off serves. "When you play a team like that, which is very talented, had a terrific scheme, you can't make errors."
What the Lady Warriors brought to the net was a penchant for defense.
"I preach it all the time, the team that plays defense is going to win," Fallabel said, "and they did a great job of doing that. They were the better team. Who knows? They may win it all. All I've head is Clarion, Clarion, Clarion from out west, but don't discount this team."
Stuck in a 17-tie in the first set, Williamson (19-0) began to make a move, and the frontline started to assert itself play. First, Daugherty blocked a shot, and then 6-foot-2 junior Lori Horton blocked another for a 19-17 lead, one the Warriors never relinquished from that point on in the match.
"Once we got on that roll, I felt a little comfortable, Williamson head coach Mark Klemick said.
Not that he was assured his team was going to win, but the level of play was his concern.
"They've been here before and they know how to react," he said of the Fillies. "They're a pretty darn good team, and we had some matchup advantages, which we took in our favor."
A service error and a return error left a doubt in Marian's mind as the deficit grew to 21-18. Then, for a moment, it seemed as if Williamson was about to slip some, especially when Marykate Sherkness nearly carried her team to the opening set win.
Trailing 23-19 she let loose like a jackhammer with four shots that echoed in the Shamokin Area High School gym. That enabled the Fillies to get within a point 24-23, but Hurlburt put the skids to the rally and put down a kill to seal the first set win.
"We tried, we really tried," a disappointed Sherkness said. "You can't ask for more from your teammates. They were very good, they had a lot of big girls up front and that caused us problems."
With the first set under its belt, Williamson started to assert its play and rally with a horde of momentum. Daugherty had three early kills before Horton, a left-handed player, got into the flow and Hurlburt used her ability to elevate from her outside hitting position for a 15-10 lead.
"The second set was really a big confidence boost for us," Daugherty said. "After we won the first set that seemed to settle us down and then we took that early lead (in the second set), we knew we could win all three (sets)."
Indeed, that seemed to be the case when the Warriors slowly put the second set to bed. Horton used a kill for a 21-17 lead, then a service ace from Katie Haslund and Daugherty's sixth kill of the set - she had 14 in the contest - made it a 23-17 lead, and Daugherty added two more kills ending the second set, 25-18.
From that point on, Williamson never let Marian regain any footing. The District 4 champions started to rock the house when Dougherty picked up back-to-back kills in the third and final set for a 19-13 lead, and it was just a matter of time until the Warriors put the final touches on the match with a 25-17 win in the third set.
Sherkness finished with 19 kills, four aces, 12 digs and two blocks in her final high school match. Abby O'Donnell had 25 assists to top her team in that department, while Abby Stankiewitch collected three kills and three blocks with Sophie Myers getting two kills and three blocks.
Sierra Magnotta and McKenna Greenwalt shared honors with nine service points for Williamson. Lindsea Jones recorded 35 assists, Hurlburt picked up 24 digs and Horton added 10 kills and four blocks.