April 24, 2014

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High School Volleyball: Wildcats’ win comes at costly price

MALLET CREEK — No sight could be more heartbreaking to a Keystone fan than seeing Kari Kincannon, one shoe on and one shoe off, with plenty of air between the floor and the sole of her bare foot, leaving the gym on the shoulders of two escorts.
Keystone was leading Buckeye, 17-12, in Game 1 of their Patriot Athletic Conference showdown Tuesday when Kincannon, an All-Ohio middle hitter, fell to the floor in a heap after suffering a severe ankle injury.
Kincannon would not return for the remainder of the match. The extent of her injury wasn’t known pending x-rays.
Keystone was already a team missing its second-best hitter, Chloe Irish, admitted to hospital with an undisclosed illness Sunday night and released Tuesday afternoon.
So what were the Wildcats to do with their two biggest offensive weapons missing against a team that was second in the PAC and trying to tie Keystone for first place?
Well, they could win.
That was just what the Wildcats did, wrapping up the PAC championship for a second consecutive season. Keystone (20-1, 12-0 PAC) actually increased its lead in the opener after Kincannon left, winning 25-17. The ‘Cats then took a 2-0 lead with a 25-23 victory in Game 2. Buckeye (14-5, 10-2 PAC) captured the third and fourth games, 25-23 and 25 -15, before Keystone out-dueled the Bucks in a nail biter of a finale, 15-13.
“I just told (the team) I’m as proud of them as any group I’ve ever had,” Keystone coach Dave Cross said. “They just gutted it out. To be so close to getting it in three games, and not getting it, but coming back in five, that is one together, super group of kids.”
Perhaps no one gutted it out more than Erica Gregory, the Wildcats’ senior outside hitter. Gregory picked up the slack for her missing teammates with 17 kills, 22 digs and 21-of-22 serving with a pair of aces.
Gregory had her gem of a match despite a back injury she said was “hurting me pretty bad.”

Gregory picked up the slack for her missing teammates with 17 kills, 22 digs and 21-of-22 serving with a pair of aces.
Gregory had her gem of a match despite a back injury she said was “hurting me pretty bad.”
“Erica stepped up huge,” Cross said. “She knew she had to get the ball on the floor, because Kari couldn’t do it and Chloe couldn’t do it. She was in a ton of pain and she did a hell of a job.”
“Our team was amazing tonight,” Gregory said. “We were fighting for everything we got. We knew what we had to do without our middles. We knew we had to match Buckeye’s intensity, and we did. Everyone stepped up and helped us.”
Jocelyn Andersen stepped up with 12 kills, in spite of playing with an infection on her hitting hand. Four of Andersen’s kills came in Game 5, including the ‘Cats’ 11th and 12th points.
Krysten Johnson was 95-of-97 setting with 48 assists and added seven kills and five blocks. Casidy Gregory, Erica’s freshman sister, was 18-of-18 serving with three aces and had four kills, including the winning point in the Game 5. Erin Gallagher had eight kills. Kincannon had five kills before suffering her ankle injury. 
Marah Farage, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, had an excellent night for Buckeye, registering 28 kills and seven block kills. Nicole Wurster added 11 kills and Taylor Topovski had nine kills as sophomore setter Kara Joyce continuously gave the Bucks hitters excellent shots to put down.
Keystone trailed the Bucks 16-15 in Game 2 before scoring six of the next seven points. The Wildcats were ahead 24-20 before two kills by Farage and one by Topovski made a one-point game. Keystone won the second game on a Buckeye hitting error.
Six unanswered points in Game 3 gave the Bucks an 18-14 advantage. Keystone fought back to trail only 24-23. An apparent kill by Johnson to tie the score was waved off by a push violation to give Buckeye the victory.
Keystone was never in the fourth game, but somehow regained its poise for the deciding game. The ‘Cats led 12-9 at one time, but Buckeye had it tied at 13-13. But Gallagher’s kill gave Keystone the lead and the younger Gregory’s kill that followed handed a PAC title to the Wildcats.
Contact Steve Byrne at 329-7137 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.