Trojanettes, Tigers Roll Into Class 3A Final
NANTICOKE — Jilann Baron looks calm, cool and collected on the court. As a senior who has won two district championships, it’s expected.
Every time Nanticoke Area needed that soothing presence Monday, Baron and her classmates were happy to oblige.
Baron, Alyssa Lewis and Rayza Ruiz combined for 25 kills, and freshman Myla Vnuk made an impression in her first district semifinal as the top-seeded Trojanettes eliminated Lake-Lehman, 3-0, in the District 2 Class 3A volleyball tournament. Set scores were 25-16, 25-19 and 25-17.
The two-time defending champs advance to Wednesday’s final at Wilkes University to face off with No. 3 seed Tunkhannock, which swept No. 2 Dallas in straight sets.
“We wanted to try and win this one in three because they took a game off of us in the regular season,” Nanticoke Area head coach Deb Gavin said. “I still want to see that killer instinct develop a little bit more. I don’t like allowing people to hang in the game. We didn’t have a bad performance, but we have some work to do heading into the Tunkhannock match.”
Baron takes nothing for granted. She’s humble when she talks about the opportunities she’s had in her volleyball career.
The senior admits she still gets nervous before each match. But, she was big when Nanticoke Area needed her.
She had three straight kills after Lake-Lehman cut a big deficit to just two late in the second set. And seven straight service points by Baron to start the third gave the Trojanettes an 8-1 lead.
“It is nerve-racking because you know you are going for your third title, and one loss could end your season,” Baron said. “Three district titles would be the most unbelievable feeling in the entire world. Never in a million years did I think I would have that chance.”
For Vnuk, it was the perfect start to her postseason career.
She had eight kills, and stepped up in big moments for a freshman. She had four spikes and two blocks in the opening set, including a cross-court shot to seal a 25-16 first-set victory.
And there was no bigger moment than in the second set. With Nanticoke Area holding on to a slim 21-18 lead, Vnuk stepped behind the service line and ripped three straight hard balls toward the back of the Black Knights defense to increase the lead back to six.
“Once the first serve goes over the net, I just focus on getting into the game. I got to shake those nerves off, or else, it will throw my whole game away,” Vnuk said. “As a freshman, I am so excited to be a member of this team. I just want to help everyone out as much as I could.”
Lake-Lehman, the No. 5 seed, fought back in the final set. Down 8-1 early, the Black Knights — behind three kills from Morgan Marchakitus — trimmed it back to 16-12 before Lewis pushed the lead back to nine on her serve.
Ruiz finished with 10 kills, while Baron had nine and Lewis added six.
Marchakitus had a team-high six spikes for Lake-Lehman.
Lake-Lehman16 19 17 — 0
Nanticoke Area25 25 25 — 3
Tunkhannock 3, Dallas 0
For the Tunkhannock Tigers, it was a sense of revenge. And it happened with a berth in the district championship on the line.
After losing in straight sets to Dallas in the third match of league play, the Tigers were able to flip the script. Jena Simmons had nine kills, and classmate Molly Goodwin added seven spikes as Tunkhannock won 3-0. Set scores were 25-22, 25-20 and 25-18.
“It’s our senior year, so we wanted to go out with a bang,” Goodwin said. “Honestly, we just wanted to come out here and show them who we are. I don’t feel like we played well in the first match with them. It means the world that we will have the chance to play in the district final. It’s a big deal for us.”
It’s what Tunkhannock believed all season. With a group of seven seniors on the roster, each girl knew the talent was there to make a run toward a district title. It was just a matter of putting it all together.
“Ever since that match where we lost to them, we said all season that we were coming back to beat them,” Simmons said. “This does feel amazing. Coach (Don) Davis has been talking about this since Day 1. He said that we have all the talent and potential to get to the district championship. And we wanted to live that dream.”
The Tigers didn’t waste much time jumping on top of Dallas in each game, leading 18-11 in the first set and racing out to a double-digit advantage (17-7) to start the second.
Everything seemed to be working. The passes were crisp. The serves kept Dallas out of its offensive rhythm by limiting senior star Gianna Musto. And Annalise Verbeek did a nice job of spreading the offense between four attackers: Goodwin, Simmons, Megan Straley and Dana Macko.
The four Tigers combined for all but one kill — led by Simmons’ nine spikes.
It wasn’t easy, though.
Dallas used an 11-1 run in the first set to grab a 22-19 lead. But, Tunkhannock scored the final six points on Goodwin’s serve to steal the opening set.
The No. 2-seed Mountaineers, once again, had a chance in the second with another long run to trim the deficit back to one, 18-17. But the Tigers hunkered down, winning seven of the final 10 points to grab a 2-0 lead in the match.
Dallas, behind four kills from Musto, tried to climb back in the final stanza, leading 12-10 before the Tigers strung together the match-clinching 15-6 run. Musto finished with a match-high 10 spikes.
Tunkhannock 25 25 25 — 3
Dallas 22 20 18 — 0
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