WILKES-BARRE – No will will deny this one has a big-match feel to it.
No. 1 vs. No. 6.
Two traditional 2A state powers. Talented hitters all around the court. Solid, back-line defense that’s guaranteed to digs balls to the setter.
Yet, don’t tell Jack Kablick and his Holy Redeemer Royals this one kind of feels like a state championship.
“People have been saying that, but the defending state champion, Corry, is on the other side of the bracket. They are still the champ,” Kablick said.
Delone Catholic and Holy Redeemer clash at 11 a.m. Saturday inside the Exeter Township High School gymnasium in a PIAA Class 2A state volleyball quarterfinal. The winner advances to Tuesday’s state semifinal to face off with either District 1 champ New Hope-Solebury or District 6 runner-up West Shamokin.
The last time both teams crossed paths in the postseason was 2013 in Pine Grove where Delone was a 3-0 winner over the Royals.
“Delone is really solid,” Kablick said. “You know that they have a quality program, and playing that District 3 schedule helps them prepare for the postseason. They have five good hitters. A lot of people talk about their sophomore, Maddie Clabaugh, but their No. 2, No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 hitters are pretty good themselves. We just have to play our game, and hopefully, our defense will be ready.”
Maybe it came as a shock to some.
Don’t misunderstand the statement. It wasn’t a surprise Holy Redeemer advanced past North Penn-Liberty in the opening round of the 2A tournament.
It was how the Royals dominated the No. 4 team in the state with relative ease.
“I was like everyone else. I really thought it was going to be a really close match,” Kablick said. “When we scrimmaged them in August, they beat us three out of four games. But they were four close games. I think we may have been separated by just six points total.”
Not so much on Tuesday. Junior sensation Skylar Osenkarski racked up 22 kills and 11 points, and Samantha Carr and Sarah Liskowicz combined for 18 spikes. Redeemer won the first two sets by a combined 20 points and earned a three-set sweep.
“We went up to Athens as the underdog based on the state rankings,” Kablick said. “They were picking up some quality wins over some New York schools, and we were facing the long ride this year. Really, we are a totally different team compared to August. We are running a quicker offense. At least half of our plays are going pretty fast.”
Kablick is right. This appears to be a much-different Royal squad that appeared somewhat hesitant in opening-season matches.
“I think we are starting to peak, but I don’t believe we are there yet,” Kablick said. “I do believe we played pretty close to an ‘A’ match against North Penn-Liberty. We will see how the girls respond now. We are hoping to get another performance like that.”
Delone Catholic, which rolled past Mast Community Charter (25-6, 25-13 and 25-9) in its PIAA opener, is talented in its own right.
Clabaugh has 114 kills on the season, while four players – Autumn Altland, Chloe Kindig, Molly Raville and Emma Malinowski – each have 60 or more kills in 2017.
“It’s going to be a challenge, but we are just going to play our game. The girls are ready and excited for the chance to play the No. 1 team in the state,” Kablick said.