ADAMS TWP — Knoch wasn't going down without a fight.
The Mars girls volleyball team knew it, then set out to pull the plug on the Knights' rally.
After the Planets won the first two games by scores of 25-19 and 25-17, they found themselves trailing their rival 14-8 in the third game.
A kill from Mars' Jaden Zimmer handed possession back to the Planets, who went on a 6-0 run to tie the game. A pair of kills from Abby Matusik and a block from Morgan Verplank contributed to the spree.
The teams traded spurts of momentum, but with the score tied at 21, it was Kelsey Bruce's kill that handed the lead back to the Planets for good in a 25-21 decision.
The victory secured a share of the Section 4-AA title for Mars and capped Senior Recognition Night inside its gymnasium.
“I believe the emotion actually made us play better tonight,” said Melanie Dinderman, a senior libero and two-year starter for the Planets. “We had to leave it all on the court. This win was huge and it feels good to be going to the playoffs as section champs.”
Knoch coach Diane Geist was pleased with her team's effort in the third game, in which Celina Sanks had two service aces and four kills.
“We tried,” Geist said. “We didn't want to give up and we had nothing to lose.”
The Knights (11-6, 8-4) had success with the serve early on in the first two games that kept the Planets close. But in both cases, Mars received clutch plays from several players to pull away.
In the first game, Matusik and Zimmer both tallied four kills, several of them keeping the Knights from gaining momentum with the serve.
Emily King dropped two clutch kills on Knoch in the second game while Bruce came up with a pair of blocks.
“It was an all-around team effort tonight,” said Planets' coach Dan Mountain. “We got big kills and blocks from different players.”
With the playoffs just around the corner, Geist is hoping for improved play. The Knights will enter the postseason as the third-place team out of Section 4.
“Our passing needs to be better,” she said. “If you can't pass, it's tough to do anything on offense. We also had a few breakdowns on defense tonight.”
Sanks ended the night with 10 kills, 10 digs and seven blocks for Knoch. Mary Zellhart added seven kills and Schaely Renfrew contributed 10 digs.
Matusik led Mars with 13 kills, Dinderman had 12 digs and Katie King 37 assists.
Mars (13-3, 11-1) shares the section title with Freeport. The two teams accounted for the other's lone section defeat this season.
“We're trying to keep the girls focused on the fact that, if we play our absolute best, we're capable of something big,” said Mountain.
Mars and Knoch will both compete in the North Allegheny Tournament this weekend.
Note: Mars recognized its nine seniors before the match. They include Abby Matusik, Katie King, Emily King, Katherine Moraca, Jaden Zimmer, Morgan Verplank, Melanie Dinderman, Coartney Sommers and Teresa Dallatore.