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Deer Lakes boys volleyball ready to defend WPIAL, PIAA titles

It's been a long time since the Deer Lakes boys volleyball team and veteran coach Rick Tatrn have been in the enviable but challenging position of defending a WPIAL or PIAA title.

The Lancers swept both Class AA championships last season. They won their previous WPIAL title in 1983 and state crown in 1978.

Deer Lakes celebrated its resurgence last spring but entered this season knowing that opponents will measure themselves against the Lancers and try to spike their hopes of a repeat.

Last season, Deer Lakes cruised to records of 16-0 overall in match play (doesn't count tournaments) and 10-0 in Section 2-AA.

The Lancers opened this season Saturday with a strong showing at the 16-team Norwin Tournament. In the championship match, they were edged by Class AAA Latrobe, 32-30.

Deer Lakes returns a talented core from last season, including Division I college prospect Tony Nicotra, and could take a good shot at winning more hardware for the school's trophy case.

"Everyone will want to compare themselves to us," Nicotra said. "It's hard to win it once. It's even harder to win it twice in a row. We have some good younger guys coming in that we have to mesh with."

Nicotra, a 6-foot-5 outside hitter, has received Division I scholarship offers from St. Francis (Pa.) and Lewis, located near Chicago. He said Penn State offered him a spot on its team but not a scholarship.

Last year, Nicotra recorded a team-leading 534 kills and had 267 digs, 139 blocks and 81 aces. He was named co-MVP of the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association's Class AA State Championship All-Tournament Team and shared that honor with teammate Jeremy Gaston, who's now at St. Francis (Pa.). Nicotra also made the PVCA's Class AA All-State Finest 40 Team.

And Nicotra will have plenty of support this season.

"We have a nice group coming back," said Tatrn, now in his 42nd season. "They have a good attitude, and they're working hard. I'm not making any prophecies, but if we get our act together we can cause some people some problems."

Deer Lakes' other top seniors are 6-4 outside hitter Sean McTigue and libero Jason Garland.

McTigue committed to Division III Medaille, located in Buffalo. Last year, he collected 222 digs, 183 kills, 63 blocks and 45 aces and made the PVCA's State Championship All-Tournament Team and All-State Finest 40.

Garland, a standout passer, collected a team-leading 440 digs and earned All-State Finest 40 honors.

Other key returnees include junior 6-6 middle hitter Don Szoszorek, 6-5 middle hitter Kody Buttyan, 6-4 middle hitter Nick Roberts and setter Zach Guiciardi. The Lancers' collective height makes them one of the taller teams in the state, and they could dominate again at the net, according to Tatrn.

Guiciardi is expected to take over for Charlie Tindall, an all-state player who's now at Division III Thiel.

"With what we accomplished last year, we hope to feed off that," Tatrn said. "There's no guarantees in athletics. Last year was a dream ending. If it happens again, so be it. We'll give it our best."

Additional Information:

Lancer laurels

Here's a list of the Deer Lakes boys volleyball team's postseason championships:

WPIAL titles ? 1978, '79, '83, 2011

PIAA titles ? 1978, 2011

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