Seneca Valley overcame a slow start Thursday night at Norwin to advance to the semifinals of the WPIAL Class 3A boys volleyball playoffs.

The fifth-seeded Raiders, who used a balanced offense in the quarterfinals to eliminate No. 4 Norwin, 3-1, by scores of 22-25, 25-17, 25-20 and 25-17, will face top-seeded Shaler on Tuesday at a site to be determined.

Shaler ousted No. 9 Hempfield, 3-0, in the quarterfinals.

"We came out a little slow in that first set,” Seneca Valley coach Brett Poirier said. "But after we made that long comeback (attempt), we never stopped. That’s what I always want to see, and it gave us momentum.”

Seneca Valley (14-6) fell behind by 10 points in the first set as Norwin (15-3) used a 15-4 run to take a 24-14 lead.

But the Raiders ran off eight unanswered points to pull within 24-22 before Norwin finally broke the drought to end the set.

"Our conditioning is what got us in trouble,” Norwin coach Mike Palaschak said. "They play five setters all the time, and I told our guys, ‘You’ve got to be ready for everything, no matter what.’ Our two biggest hitters made a lot of errors, and we just didn’t have a good offensive night.”

Not so for Seneca Valley after sputtering out of the gate. The Raiders settled in and dominated the match the rest of the way, as Peter Breski’s eight kills led the way.

Seneca Valley rallied in the second game to tie the match, building an early eight-point lead before rolling to a 25-17 victory.

The Raiders seized a 2-1 lead by taking the third game 25-20. They went in front 19-12 and held on after Norwin pulled within 24-20.

"I felt like after the first game, even though we won, once they got that momentum, we never got it back,” Palaschak said.

Norwin, the Section 3-3A champion, struggled to contain Seneca Valley’s taller front line of 6-foot-5 Jordan Hoover, 6-4 Matthew DeGraaf and the 6-2 Breski.

"When you’re 5-10 and you have to jump against a guy 6-5, it takes a lot of energy,” Palaschak said. "After a while, you lose your legs.”

Nick Puskaric led the Knights with 12 kills.

Seneca Valley led the deciding fourth set 10-2 and never allowed Norwin closer than six points. The Raiders’ biggest margin was 22-11, a margin too large for the Knights to overcome.

Hoover and DeGraaf chipped in seven kills apiece for Seneca Valley, the fourth-place team in Section 2-3A, which opened the playoffs with a first-round, 3-1 victory over No. 12 Moon.

The Raiders kept their momentum going in the quarterfinals.

"We blocked very well. It’s up and down, but tonight, we blocked really well,” Poirier said. "But what I’m impressed with is Norwin’s passing. I have not seen a team pass the ball that good all year. Their passing was in system all night, and they made it tough. But we blocked well, and we played better defense.”

It was little consolation to Palaschak, who said the Knights just didn’t have enough firepower.

"We’re probably the best passing team around. We passed well tonight,” Palaschak said. "The issue is we struggled offensively.

"(Hoover) is a very good player. We tried to take everything away, and in the first game, we did that. We served tough and got them out of system. Then, they reciprocated. In Games 2, 3 and 4, they served us tough and got us out of system. That was a service battle there.

"It was good season, but we just couldn’t get past them tonight.”

If Javascript is disabled browser, to place orders please visit the page where our photos are available to purchase.