There is no tougher gauntlet to run when it comes to Wyoming Valley Conference girls volleyball.
Holy Redeemer, Delaware Valley and Crestwood. Now, sprinkle in a gritty, Tunkhannock squad.
It was quite the daunting task, but Nanticoke Area conquered the challenge.
Jenna Baron and Myla Vnuk combined for 16 kills, and the Trojanettes picked up their sixth straight win, 3-0 over Tunkhannock on Sept. 28. Set scores were 25-16, 25-9 and 25-18.
Nanticoke Area improved to 6-0 and joined Berwick as the only undefeated teams left in the league. The two meet on the last day of conference play. Not only will a WVC title likely be up for grabs but, also, the top seed for the upcoming Class 3A district bracket.
“You have to come in with the mindset that every game could be your last,” Baron said. “You know that COVID could hit at any minute, and your season could be cut short. That’s scary because this is our passion. We came into the gym on Day 1 to work as hard as we could and try to win as many games as possible.”
It’s the same mantra Debbie Gavin has used every year. One game at a time, one practice at a time and control what you can.
“This league is so competitive. You know every night is going to be a challenge,” Gavin, the Nanticoke Area head coach, said. “The schedule tested us early and fast, and it will keep testing us. So far, our girls have been doing what they need to do. They are a very motivated group, but there are still things that we need to work on.”
It was all about serving on Sept. 28. The team racked up 10 aces, including five from Vnuk. Every moment it appeared Tunkhannock (4-2) gained a sliver of momentum, the Trojanettes grabbed it away behind the service line.
It was a 5-0 run, including two straight aces from Vnuk, that broke open a 15-13 opening set.
The Tigers, behind kills from Ava Tyler and Dana Macko, hung around in the second, down 9-6. That’s when Baron took over. She had five kills in the set, and Nanticoke Area scored 16 of the final 19 points — including a 9-0 run on Emily Cullen’s serve to end the stanza.
Tunkhannock had one final chance to extend the match in the third, down just two late. But a 4-0 run on Kylie Albert’s serve and kills from Abby Cullen and Vnuk gave the Trojanettes some breathing room.
Baron and Vnuk each had eight kills, while Brooklyn Biehl added 14 assists. Tunkhannock’s Macko had a game-high nine kills, and teammate Emily Schultz added four kills, 14 assists, and three digs.
Tunkhannock rebounded quickly from that loss to top Hazelton, 3-1, at home on Sept. 30, in four tightly contested matches.
The Tigers won the night with scores of 26-24, (25-23), 25-17, and 25-21.
Tyler paced the Tigers, tallying 10 service points, seven aces, six kills and six digs.
Lily Miller added 14 service points, as well as seven digs, three kills and two aces, for the victors.
According to first year coach Lynne Binner, Macko, last season’s first team all star and current top five stat leader in the WVC, twisted her ankle during warm ups before the match.
Sophomore Emma Holdredge made her varsity debut in Macko’s middle hitter spot and stepped it up by getting six kills. Lorelai Paxton also played back row in Macko’s spot and had five digs and the game winning kill.
Schultz added to the Tiger’s line, amassing 14 service points, six aces, 3 kills and 13 assists.
Pittston Area and the Tigers alternated set wins on Friday night in Tunkhannock, but the Patriots prevailed in the decisive fifth for a 3-2 win.
Pittston won the odd sets with scores of 25-15, 25-18, and the final tiebreaker 17-15. Tunkhannock picked up wins in set two (25-14) and four (25-22).
Lily Miller had a balanced day with 10 service points, eight kills and eight digs for Tunkhannock, while Gabrielle Roote had 19 service points, two aces, 21 digs, and two kills.
Schultz added 22 assists, nine digs, four service points, one ace, and a kill.
— Colleen McAleer also contributed to this article.