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SV takes bite out of Big Macs to advance in playoffs

Seneca Valley’s Dawson Ward (right) attacks the net as Canon-McMillan’s Toby Goeckeler (13) and William O’Bryan defend Thursday in a WPIAL Class 3A quarterfinal playoff. SV swept the Big Macs, 3-0. Steven Dalton/Special to the Eagle
Moving on

JACKSON TWP — Seneca Valley and Canon-McMillan are not section foes in boys volleyball, but the two teams have become quite familiar with each other this season.

Their WPIAL Class 3A quarterfinal meeting Thursday was the fourth time this spring they have faced each other. Through the previous encounters, SV coach Brett Poirier knew one thing for certain.

“They always seem to come out with a lot of energy,” he said. “Canon-McMillan is a good team. They won their section and deserved better than an eighth seed.“

Sure enough, the Big Macs stood toe-to-toe with the Raiders early, managing several kills and blocks to take a number of slim leads at William Paul Gymnasium.

But what Canon-Mac did well in spurts, the Raiders answered with sustained runs. Kills from Nate DeGraaf, Dawson Ward and Nick Semrau helped the Raiders take control of the first set and they had little trouble afterward in dispatching the Big Macs by scores of 25-13, 25-17 and 25-16.

Seneca Valley’s Nate DeGraaf (left), who led the Raiders with 13 kills Thursday, looks for one against Canon-McMillan’s Luke Fincham (26) during a WPIAL Class 3A quarterfinal playoff match. The Raiders won, 3-0. Steven Dalton/Special to the Eagle

“They came at us strong, but once we put out that fire, we were fine,” said SV junior middle hitter Grant Hoover, who tallied nine kills in the victory.

The Raiders (13-1) will face Shaler, a 3-1 winner over Norwin, in a semifinal Monday at a site and time to be determined.

The Big Macs, one of just a few teams to take a set from the Raiders this season, showed flashes of their potential at the net for the remainder of the match.

Owen Ostrowski, a 6-foot-4 junior right-side hitter, led Canon-Mac (13-4) with seven kills.

“He comes into the game, gets three kills and then leaves,” Poirier said. “We’re glad to see him go.”

Service aces helped SV create some distance on the scoreboard in the second set. DeGraaf and Aidan Uher both tallied two of them and the kills, 13 of them, were spread out.

“We have a balanced offense,” said Big Macs’ coach Sheila Mitchell, “but Seneca has some powerful pin hitters, starting with (DeGraaf). They’re able to run a quick offense.”

DeGraaf paced SV with 13 kills and Ward added eight.

The Raiders’ practices since closing the regular season with a win over Butler a week ago have helped to keep the team sharp.

“We focus on attention to detail, fine-tuning the little things,” said Poirier. “And we’ve stayed healthy. We can’t afford an injury.”

The Raiders opened the season by being recognized in the national rankings. According to the latest Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association poll, they are ranked second in the state behind Central Dauphin.

“Rankings are nice, but that’s not what we’re focused on,” said Hoover. “Getting too confident has not been an issue.”