WILKES-BARRE – Every person wearing Wyoming Area green and gold at Wilkes’ Marts Center knew what was ahead.
The fifth-ranked Double-A team in the state. The squad that never lost a match to District 2 competition. Holy Redeemer, the premier volleyball program in the area.
Yet, Nick Diaco told the girls to look around, and soak in the setting with classmates yelling their names and waving white towels. Parents, with proud tears in their eyes, cheering with every ounce of their heart.
On the court, it was another lights-out performance by the Royals.
Lauren Slavoski dominated with a match-high 14 kills as Redeemer needed just 55 minutes to capture the District 2 Class 2A championship with a 3-0 victory Thursday night.
Set scores 25-13, 25-12 and 25-8.
The victory vaults Redeemer to the Pennsylvnaia Interscholastic Athletic Association Class 2A state bracket where play begins Tuesday. The Royals face off with District 4 champ Wellsboro in the first round in a match most likely at North Pocono High School.
“Looking around, I’ve never experienced anything like it, whether playing or coaching,” Diaco said. “Honestly, it was like playing in the Super Bowl with how loud it was.”
Of course, everyone knew it would have been one of the greatest upsets in the history of area sports if the Warriors pulled off the stunner.
Redeemer had won 185-straight matches against District 2 competition heading into the match, and are primed for a deep run in the postseason. Just last week, the Royals handed WA a three-set defeat on the last day of Wyoming Valley Conference play.
“I told the girls that they can’t hang their heads,” Diaco said. “It was one heck of ride for our team. From the very beginning, our goal was to compete for a district title, and we were able to do that. I’m proud of this team. I honestly don’t know what it’s going to be next year when I walk into the gym and those seniors aren’t on the court. They did so much for our program. I hope the younger girls can look up to how they led, and how hard they worked to accomplish those goals.”
The Royals were all business against the upset-minded Warriors, which beat top-seed Dunmore to reach the championship.
Redeemer took control early in the first set after five straight serve points from Kassie Schinski gave the team an early,10-4 lead.
“You are always worried about the girls coming in with a lack of intensity because we did just beat them last week,” Redeemer head coach Jack Kablick said. “It’s always exciting to win a title because it’s always different faces. It changes every year, and you work so hard to get here.”
WA couldn’t find its footing offensively against the fifth-ranked 2A team in the state.
The Warriors used a 4-1 run late in the second set to get the score a little closer toward the end.
The team’s biggest nemesis on the night was passing and handling Redeemer’s jump-serves and floaters that dove to the ground after clearing the net.
“We knew what we were up against, but we played our hearts out and left everything on the court,” Diaco said.
Redeemer really controlled the final two sets.
Five service points by Olivia Mennig and Slavoski’s monster spikes gave the Royals an early cushion, 8-1, in the second set and Ashley Andrejko pushed it to a 15-4 lead. Slavoski, Amanda Curcio and Brynn Kukosky combined for 10 kills in the set; one Redeemer needed just 15 minutes to complete, 25-12.
“This is my first district title game, so I was a little nervous,” Kukosky said. “Wearing this gold medal, I feel like I am part of something big. I just love it. My teammates always pushed me to be here and to work hard every day. I owe so much to them and our coaches.”
Redeemer didn’t waste much time in the third.
An 8-0 run on Slavoski’s serve gave the Royals a 14-4 edge, and seven service points by setter Courtney Kijek all but ended the match.
“We are starting to peak,” Kijek said. “We are still going to push ourselves really hard. If we keep going hard, and keep pushing each other, I believe that we have a chance to win it all.”
Defensively, the Royals were suffocating. One match after allowing just four kills to North Pocono, Redeemer allowed just six to Wyoming Area – three of those by Jess Sorick.
That’s a credit to how Redeemer performed behind the back line, despite 14 service errors.
“We still have to work on the ball control and the serving,” Slavoski said. “We also have to pick up tendencies a little quicker. I think we are coming together so well. I’m excited to see what happens in states.”
In addition to Slavoski’s 14 kills, Curcio and Kukosky combined for 15 spikes and Kijek ended with 30 assists.
Nicole Wright had two kills for WA, and setter Rachael Solano had five assists.