Ken Wunderley writes about the Knoch girls volleyball team.
Diane Geist is celebrating her 30th season as Knoch High School's girls volleyball coach with a 16th consecutive WPIAL Class AA playoff berth.
"When I started coaching, there were only two classes and we were in Class AAA in a section with North Allegheny, Pine-Richland and eventually Seneca Valley," Geist said. "We made the playoffs four or five times."
The PIAA added a third class in 2000 and Knoch was designated as a Class AA team.
"We've qualified for the playoffs every year since we moved down to Class AA in 2000," Geist said. "That's a tribute to the talented athletes I've worked with over the years."
Knoch entered last night's Class AA Section 4 finale against Deer Lakes with a 9-2 record in the section and a 13-2 mark overall. The Knights only losses were to Freeport, the No. 1-ranked team in the WPIAL in Class AA.
"I haven't seen all the top teams in Class AA, but Freeport has to be considered the favorite in the WPIAL," Geist said.
Knoch, ranked No. 9, has wins against four non-section opponents. The Knights swept Indiana and beat Mars, Hampton and Avonworth in four games.
"We faced four quality teams in our non-section matches," Geist said. "We're hoping that will help us in the seeding."
The WPIAL volleyball committee will determine the brackets Monday, with first-round matches to begin as early as Tuesday.
"I am very surprised that we've done as well as we have," Geist said. "Over the last two years, we lost some very talented players to graduation.
"We've made a lot of errors this year, but have been fortunate to win all but two matches. That's a credit to the girls and how hard they have worked."
Geist has built this year's squad around three players who were recognized as All-Section 4. Carly Bozzo, a 5-5 sophomore libero, was voted to the first team. Abbie Fissore, a 5-6 senior middle hitter, and Sarah Armahizer, a 5-11 sophomore middle hitter, were voted to the second team.
"Abbie is one of four seniors on the team," Geist said. "Three are starters, while the other is a sub."
The other two senior starters are 5-4 setter Julie Zilka and 5-2 senior defensive specialist Taylor Lesseski. Zilka is a returning starter, while Lesseski is a returning letterman.
"Julie was our opposite last year," Geist said. "She didn't do any setting until this year. We run a modified 5-1 offense with Abby Pospisil as our other setter."
Pospisil is a 5-7 sophomore, who also plays outside hitter.
"Our seniors and juniors are providing good leadership, but we're still a young team," Geist said. "Our sophomore class is more athletic. The combination of our seniors, juniors and sophomores has worked very well."
Knoch's other returning starter is Alley Kerkan, a 5-2 junior defensive specialist.
Newcomers to the Knights starting rotation are 5-7 sophomore outside hitter Bethany Nulph, 5-4 sophomore defensive specialist Celia Knappenberger, 5-5 junior outside hitter Katelyn Schwab and 5-11 sophomore outside hitter Abby Kopac.