McDONALD – The dent Taylor Christopher could have left in the floor following a spike wasn’t nearly as destructive as the one she left in Burgettstown’s chances of an upset.
The spike, with conviction, from Christopher in the middle of the second game led to an impressive 11-point run as fourth-seeded Carmichaels controlled play the majority of the night to sweep No. 13 Burgettstown in straight sets, 25-13, 25-8 and 25-23, in a WPIAL Class A first-round volleyball match at Fort Cherry High School.
“We just kind of pull from her energy,” Carmichaels coach Julianne Speeney said of Christopher. “Any big play you try to build off of.”
The win advances Carmichaels to a quarterfinal match against section rival and No. 5 seed Geibel Catholic next Tuesday at a site and time to be determined. The two split their two regular-season matches and shared the Section 2-A title.
Second-seeded Fort Cherry also advanced with a straight-set victory over No. 15 Avella in the night’s second match.
Christopher’s intimidating spike was followed by four consecutive blocks from the six-footer, which continued a problem Burgettstown (6-7) had in all three games. The Blue Devils had trouble against the height of the Mikes’ frontline.
Emma Hyatt had four kills, and Christopher added six kills and seven blocks for Carmichaels.
“I think our frontline is amazing,” Speeney said. “I’ve never been able to have that tall of a front line. Their movement off the net is important and they do a great job getting ready to attack or play the ball.”
The Mikes jumped out to a 9-2 lead to open the first game and had a six-point run to extend their lead to 21-8, thanks to two Christopher blocks.
“We set the tone and attitude,” Speeney said. “Getting out to that fast start is so important, then you can just play the game instead of being tense. It’s nice to have a little wiggle room.”
In the third game, Burgettstown played evenly with Carmichaels but self-inflicted mistakes prevented the Blue Devils from extending the match. The Blue Devils had four service errors.
“We had a lot of mistakes in the first and second games,” said Burgettstown coach James Nai. “We tightened up but the timeliness of those service errors were costly. We make a run, service error. We make another run, another service error.”
Fort Cherry, 3-0
Having a strong presence at the net, Fort Cherry prevented Avella from leading at any point and cruised to a straight-set win, 25-16, 25-17 and 25-11.
Middle hitters Allie McKean and Reagan Carter dominated with a combined 27 kills to help the Rangers advance to Tuesday’s quarterfinal against No. 7 Vincentian Academy.
“Those two girls are in sync with our setters so well,” said Fort Cherry coach Mackenzie Biggs. “They are powerhouses and have heavy arms every single game that they come into. They come on the court ready to win. They are focused the whole time and get it done.”
McKean had 14 kills and Carter 13.
“We played (Fort Cherry) earlier in the season and their middles did the same thing,” said Avella coach Joelle Cooper. “We aren’t tall there. We knew it was going to be a challenge. We tried working on blocks defensively but came up short.”
Fort Cherry (11-2) pulled away in both games one and three with multiple runs. The Rangers had three, five-point runs, including to pull them within one point from victory, before McKean’s block sealed a 25-16 win. They went on four- and five-point runs in the third game.
“We play everybody tough but they had more runs that we did,” Cooper said.
Avella (8-8) played Fort Cherry close in the second set and went on a run of its own to trail by just one point, 16-15. That was quickly spoiled as the Rangers scored nine of the next 11 points, which included four kills from Carter, for the 25-17 win.
“The girls knew they were going to have some competition,” Biggs said. “When our girls got onto the court they worked and were ready to go.”