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NTL VOLLEYBALL: CANTON FALLS TO SACRED HEART IN STATE SEMIFINALS (2021-11-16)

BY CHRIS MANNING
Northern Tier Sports Report
HAZLETON — Canton needed to be at their best against the District-I champions Sacred Heart, but a few tough calls early got them off their game, while the Lions were able to capitalize and earn a 3-0 win over the Warriors in the PIAA, Class A volleyball semifinal Tuesday.

“I think we got very discouraged with all the calls against us,” said Canton coach Sheila Wesneski. “We still needed to bring our game, and we didn’t, and we let the officiating bring down our level.”


The Warriors were called for five double touches, along with a tipped call on a hard Sacred Heart swing where it appeared all Canton players had pulled their hands back to let it go out of bounds.


“You still have to control how you play, and, unfortunately, we did not play our best,” Wesneski said. “I don’t think it was the team, in general, I don’t think it was that. They’re a good team, I think we would have matched up, and we just didn’t bring our top game.”


Canton dropped the sets 25-18, 25-18, and 25-8.


It was a slow start for the Warriors as Sacred Heart jumped out to a 6-1 first set lead.


A Lion attack into the net gave Canton the serve back, with Rachel Martin heading to the backline. The senior came through, serving up six straight points to put the Warriors up 8-6. 


During the run she had an ace, while Jillaney Hartford notched a kill.


The two teams then traded points before the Lions took control again. Down 7-9, Sacred Heart rattled off six straight points of their own to go up 13-9. They would push their lead out to six points, 19-13, before Canton had one more rally left.


After a Sacred Heart net serve Hartford had a block to cut it o 19-15. Back to back kills by the Lions pushed their lead to 21-15, but then they had two swings that went wide, followed by a bad pass, to give Canton new hope as they cut it to a 3-point deficit (21-18).


That’s as close as they got, though, as Sacred Heart scored the final four points to get the first set win.


The Warriors opened the second set strong, taking a 4-2 lead thanks to kills from Hartford and Martin, plus a Martin ace. Canton, though, couldn’t pull away from the Lions, who kept it a 2-point deficit through the early portion of the match. A Martin kill would make it 8-6, but the Lions would score the next five points to take an 11-8 lead.


A Trisha Gilbert kill stopped the bleeding, but four points from Sacred Heart found them up 15-9. The teams would trade points to 17-11 when the Warriors made a push, beginning with a kill from Gilbert. She followed that up with an ace, then Keri Wesneski had a kill to make it a 3-point deficit.


A Sacred Heart swing into the net got it to 17-15, but a 4-point spurt by the Lions saw them push the lead to 21-15. 


From there they traded points with Canton for the 25-18 final.


In the final set an Aislyn Williams swing early tied it up at 1-1, but after that nothing went right for Canton as the Lions scored eight straight points to go up 9-1.


They would go on to out score the Warriors 14-7 the rest of the way to pick up the third set, and the match.


Martin had three kills, two aces, five digs, and a team leading 13 points, while Gilbert finished with two kills, an ace, four digs, and six points.


Hartford had two kills, a dig, and a block, as Williams finished with a kill, an assist, six digs, and eight points.


Wesneski had a kill, 12 digs, and four points, Allyson Butcher notched eight assists, an ace, six digs, and a point, and Marissa Ostrander had a kill, eight digs, and three points.


“It’s always sad to see your season end, and then you have to say good-bye to your seniors,” said coach Wesneski. “They need to savor what they’ve accomplished this year, and walk away with their heads held high.”


They lose two starters in Gilbert and Martin, but return the other five key players in their rotation.


“They at least have a good core to come back to, and, hopefully, build off this, and maybe return here next year,” coach Wesneski remarked.


PHOTO CAPTION: Canton’s Rachel Martin goes for a kill…PHOTOS BY CHRIS MANNING



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