MURRYSVILLE — The DuBois volleyball program enters uncharted territory tonight as the Lady Beavers will play their first-ever state semifinal match against Franklin Regional, with the winner earning a trip to the Class 3A championship match on Saturday.
Franklin Regional (17-2), the WPIAL champion, finds itself in a similar situation as the Lady Panthers — ranked No. 6 in the state by the Pennsylvania Volleyball coaches Association — captured their first-ever District 7 title this season.
The prospects of facing a WPIAL opponent is nothing new to the Lady Beavers, who will play their fourth D-7 opponent in states in as many years when they take on the Lady Panthers on their home court this evening. DuBois was swept out the first round of states by Thomas Jefferson the last two years and suffered the same fate against Montour in 2017.
So, knowing what to expect when they hit the court tonight won’t be DuBois’ biggest obstacle but instead just playing a live match. That’s because the Lady Beavers have taken a most unusual route to the state semifinals in the most unusual of seasons due to COVID-19.
Tonight will mark exactly three weeks since DuBois last played — a three-set sweep of Brockway at home in the regular season finale on Oct. 27. Since then, the Lady Beavers have down nothing but practice.
None of the other three Class 3A schools (Bradford, Clearfield, St. Marys) in District 9 entered the playoffs, so DuBois (11-4) was given an automatic berth to states and a spot in the quarterfinals. DuBois entered the year as the three-time defending D-9 Class 3A champions.
DuBois then got another bye in the state quarters as D-10 champ Conneaut Area was forced to forfeit because of COVID-19 cases. DuBois itself was impacted by COVID during the regular season, as it was forced to play without most of its starting lineup for two weeks because of contact tracing from a case within the high school and not the program itself.
So after three weeks of no matches, the same amount of time teams practice before the regular starts, DuBois will have to dig deep to put together a strong performance against the sixth-ranked team in the state.
For that to happen, the team’s two seniors — middle hitter Taylor Smith and libero Emma Torretti — will have to lead what is otherwise a young squad playing in the biggest match of the their careers, as one victory means a chance to play for the school’s first state title.
Several of the Lady Beavers garnered some honors for their play this season during their layoff, as the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association District 9 Class 3A All-Star Team was recently announced.
DuBois landed five players on that All-Star squad in Smith (middle hitter), juniors Eden Galiczynski (setter), Bella Gregory (outside hitter) and Lauren Walker (middle hitter) and sophomore Jessica Pfaff (outside hitter).
Rounding out the D-9 Class 3A squad are Bradford senior Alex Asp (middle hitter) and junior Alix Ordiway (outside hitter).
While DuBois hasn’t played in three weeks, Franklin Regional (No. 4 seed for the WPIAL playoffs) has played four times — three in the D-7 playoffs and once in the state quarterfinals.
Franklin Regional swept top-seeded Beaver in the WPIAL semifinals before needing five sets to dispatch third-seeded Montour in the finals for its first district crown. Franklin Regional then swept D-6 champion Bellefonte, 25-15, 25-17, 25-22, on Saturday in the state quarterfinals.
The Lady Panthers are led by Division I recruit Aly Kindelberger, a senior who is headed to dePaul University to play. She had 17 kills against Bellefonte to surpass 1,000 for her career. Sophomore Ella Evans added nine kills, and seniors Renee Baldy and Alexa Feorene chipped in seven apiece in that win.
Kindelberger had 24 kills in the win against Montour.
Franklin Regional was 1-1 in the state playoffs a year ago as the third place team from D-7, beating Conneaut Area before losing to WPIAL champ Knoch in the state quarterfinals. The Lady Panthers went 0-12 in section play in the WPIAL when Kindelberger was a freshman.
Action at Franklin Regional is set to start at 6 p.m.