Bethel Park advances to volleyball finals

Published Oct 31, 2013 at 9:00 pm (Updated Oct 31, 2013 at 9:00 pm)
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On Halloween night, black and orange indeed ruled as Bethel Park upended Shaler, 3-1, and advanced to the WPIAL Class AAA volleyball championships for the first time in school history.

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Seeded seventh, the Lady Hawks, attired in their black uniforms with orange piping, overcame a rough start, where they dropped the first set, 25-23, and upset the No. 3 seeded Titans. They reeled off victories in the next three sets, 25-19, 25-21, and 25-15, to clinch their spot in the finals.

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The win over the Titans came on the heels of another giant-toppling as BP dispatched Pine-Richland, 25-19, 25-20, 25-23, to advance to its first Final Four. In the playoff opener, the Hawks defeated Upper St. Clair, 25-13, 25-12, 25-14.

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“These girls are learning and growing with each match,” said head coach Shawn Palmer. “They keep getting better at handling these first-time situations.”

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At first, against the Titans, the Lady Hawks did not handle the pressure well. Backed by a vocal support section of 100-plus students, Shaler opened up a comfortable lead before settling in to take the first set by two points.

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“The first set they were tense,” explained Palmer. “It was the first time they had been in a situation like this. They had the jitters. They were hesitant. They had to get through that but after that they played great.”

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Indeed, BP opened up a 13-7 lead and won the second set by six points. Tied, 20-20, the Hawks used a 5-1 run to seal the third set. They opened up leads of 9-2 and 17-10 before clinching the victory in the fourth set.

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After dominating Pine-Richland with 19 kills, Stacey Kazalas ruled the Titans. She controlled the action, accounting for key spikes in critical points in the match.

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“If she doesn’t come through for us, then we don’t win,” Palmer said. “She is our big gun offensively.”

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Olivia Schanck at the end “drilled” the serves. “She nailed it,” said Palmer.

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The Hawks also benefited from the play up front by Samantha Simpson, Kayte Zeiler, Hannah Gleeson and Jessica Hanson.

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Sarah Storino and Morgan Stelmaszynski excelled as defensive specialists while Kaileigh Poe and Rachel Dunay set well for the Hawks.

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Also playing important roles were Taylor Mannarino, Emily Marzina, Paige Chalus and Carly Mansfield.

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“Heart and effort,” said Palmer. “It took a lot of both to get this far.”

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The Hawks will play the winner of the match between Norwin and North Allegheny in the WPIAL Class AAA championship match at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 2 at Chartiers Valley.

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