KANE — Using a block that the Redbank Valley Lady Bulldogs volleyball team hadn’t seen all year, Kane knocked the defending District 9 Class 2A champions from their perch with a 3-2 (19-25, 25-19, 25-16, 15-25, 15-11) win in the semifinals last Wednesday night.
The Lady Wolves recorded 10 blocks during the match and, perhaps, even more importantly the threat of the blocked helped create 26 hitting errors for the Lady Bulldogs, who saw their string of three straight title-game appearances come to an end.
“I honestly don’t think it was anything they were specifically doing,” Darr said. “It is just something we haven’t seen all year. Taylor (King) is a returning all-state middle. She really hasn’t had someone with her size up against her most of the year. We just haven’t seen that all year. You get blocked a couple of times and it gets in your head and you start trying to do some things that you normally wouldn’t do and you start hitting the ball out. Kudos to Kane.”
The hitting errors were most prominent in the three sets Redbank Valley lost with the Lady Bulldogs committing seven of them in the second set, seven more in the third set and six in the fifth set that was only played to 15 while only committing one in the first set and five in the fourth set, both wins.
“Our hitting percentage tonight, if not negative, was close to zero,” Darr said.
Sierra Hillman (six total blocks including tandem blocks) and Sarri Swanson (five total blocks including tandem blocks) led the way for Kane upfront.
“We work a lot on blocking,” Kane head coach Kelly Johnson said. “We knew from watching tape where they hit. We were ready.”
Kane went on and was swept by Brookville in Saturday’s D9 final in St. Marys as the Lady Raiders, who were swept by Redbank Valley in the finals last year, won their first D9 title since their only other one back in 2003.
After splitting the first four sets, Kane jumped out quickly to a 5-1 lead in the fifth set only to see Redbank Valley rally to get back within a point, 12-11, on a Lauren Smith ace.
But Smith followed the ace up with a serve that went too long, and a pair of Redbank Valley hitting errors clinched the match for Kane.
“They battled back,” Darr said. “Kane is a great team. They gave us fits in that second and third set with their block, but we still battled back. When it was 12-10 and Lauren got us to 12-11, I honestly had confidence. I had confidence the entire match.”
King led Redbank Valley with 13 kills and three blocks while fellow senior Smith had nine kills and two aces and senior Becca Kunselamn added nine kills with senior setter Tara Hinderliter running the offense with 37 set assists while chipping two aces. The fifth senior, Kianna Shreckengost also had a pair of kills.
“It was a great career for our five seniors,” Darr said. “Three district finals, two champions, and they lost to a really good team tonight.”
Audri Marconi paced Kane with 11 kills while adding four aces and three blocks, while Swanson chipped in nine kills to go with her five blocks. Hillman added three kills, and Moira Stanisch ran the offense with 23 set assists.
Redbank Valley finished the season with five loses all to team that at least reached the District 9 semifinals (Brookville, Kane, Clarion, Cranberry and A-C Valley).