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Brentwood volleyball team to display strong athleticism

Jeff Healy | For the South Hills Record
Senior netters at Brentwood this season are, from left, Victoria Healy, Maura Samuel, Christina Cranmer, Mara Eisenbarth, Lesly Moran and Shannon Tichenor.

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Friday, Sept. 7, 2012, 11:45 a.m.

The Brentwood girls' varsity volleyball team appears to have a strong starting lineup, along with outstanding depth.

Head coach Caitlin Grattan hopes the mixture leads to a banner season for the Lady Spartans.

“I'm very excited for this year,” Grattan said via email. “Last year, we were extremely young with a great deal of underclassmen playing starting roles for us. Now that they have had the opportunity to have one year under their belts playing at this caliber (of volleyball), they seem more ready for action than ever.

“We have a very deep bench with a great deal of players that have wonderful attitudes and are ready to go at a moment's notice. Some of the best athletes in the school have decided to play volleyball, so the competition is high for getting a starting position. Sitting on the bench is not a knock at anyone's talent as much as it is awaiting their turn.”

Brentwood's early season lineup is filled with experience, as all but one player is a returning letterwinner.

That starting lineup includes setters Victoria Healy, a senior, and Brooke McWilliams, a junior; outside hitters Mara Eisenbarth, a senior, and Alexandra Gibbons, a junior; plus middle hitters Tammi Hilburn, a junior; and Katelyn McNamara, a sophomore.

Defensive specialists include juniors Tammy Garcia and Annie Harding, and senior Christina Cranmer.

McNamara and Kaylee Koenig, a junior, were pleasant surprises in the preseason.

“Kate is a sophomore, and based on our evaluation of the team and our needs we looked to her to fill a major role as a middle hitter,” Grattan said. “She has worked hard all summer by going to volleyball camps, and working out with a personal trainer. She set a goal and reached it. We're looking to her to play like a veteran.

“Kaylee is a junior who only decided to come out for the volleyball team her sophomore year due to her involvement in other sports. This year, she made a conscious decision to focus on volleyball. She plays with a lot of guts, and she settles for nothing short of perfection. We have seen a lot of progress in her over a short amount of time. I'm expecting to see huge strides out of her this year.”

Key reserves for the Lady Spartans include seniors Maura Samuel and Shannon Tichenor, and juniors Alexis Bubacz, Olivia Healy and Melissa Smozski.

“These girls are a very tight-knit group,” Grattan said. “They have started ‘coaching' themselves, essentially. On the court they come together after every play to celebrate as a group, or to talk strategy and pick each other up.

“Those are not traits that I can teach them or coach them ... that comes from within. I feel our unity is one of our greatest strengths.”

Brentwood, Neighborhood Academy, North Catholic, Serra Catholic, Sto-Rox, Vincentian and Wilkinsburg are members of Section 2-A.

North Catholic and Serra Catholic tied for first place with 11-1 records last year, followed by Seton-La Salle in third place.

“With this group, I want them to take nothing for granted,” Grattan said. “We need to approach every game, every opponent the same way.

“We need to focus on controlling the controllable, and know that it is only ‘us versus the ball.' We have faceless opponents.”

The Brentwood girls, who played at Vincentian earlier this week, are slated to host Serra Catholic tonight, Thursday.

“I believe there are a few keys to a successful season,” Grattan said. “Maintaining the high level of respect the girls have for each other and their coaches will be an attribute that sets them apart from others.

“The girls have commented on the relationships they notice on other teams, and I think they are starting to realize that what they have at Brentwood is special.”

Gratton welcomed a strong turnout to the Brentwood preseason practices.

There are 12 girls on the Brentwood junior varsity team this season, including senior Lesly Moran, and a host of sophomores — Jenel Faust, Christine Gerstel, Amanda Henning, Miranda Klein, Sydney Luther, Amber Masullo, Allison Mrkonja and McNamara.

Freshman prospects for the Lady Spartans include Alicia Folino, Taryn Sherry and Alexis Wagner.

Ray Fisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5820 or

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