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Pine-Richland boys volleyball rallies past Shaler

| Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Louis Raggiunti | Pine Creek Journal
Pine-Richland setter Kevin Kunkel sets up middle hitter Tim Williams in a game against Shaler.
Louis Raggiunti | Pine Creek Journal
Shaler's Dom Varvaro waits for a serve from Pine-Richland.

The Pine-Richland and Shaler boys volleyball teams are committed to improving each game with the goal of making the push toward the playoffs.

Early on, Shaler played its game and took the first game from the Rams, 25-20. But errors began to surface in games two through four, allowing the Rams to rally for the victory.

“We definitely came ready,” Shaler coach Paul Stadelman said. “We lost focus in games two, three and four … our serve/receive fell apart and had to live and die on our outside hitters. When you can't get your other hitters involved in the offense, it makes things tough.”

Stadelman said the positive for his squad is that it showed up in the first set, but he added that cutting down on errors and controlling things on its side of the net are critical moving forward.

“If we can cut down on errors and work on the serve/receive, we can play with teams,” Stadelman said. “The difference against Pine-Richland was they came ready to play defense and were relentless. They didn't let the ball hit the floor, and we didn't have that all-out effort like Pine-Richland.”

The Rams have improved as of late. An 0-3 start has been eclipsed by three straight wins.

“We have slowly figured out we are a good team,” Pine-Richland coach Dave Neely said. “We missed some serves early against Shaler and didn't have chemistry (in the first game). The team responded in games two through four and reduced the errors.”

Part of what led to the reduction of errors was the Rams' ability to pass effectively to a pair of huge middle hitters in Tim Williams and Sam Dunsmore. Williams and Dunsmore killed the ball with regularity and authority in games two, three and four, and their effort was set up by near-perfect passes form players including Mike Jones and Jared Todoroski.

“We just played bad in the first game,” Jones said. “We got the passes going better from the second on. Good passes lead to good hits … we just need to keep this momentum and carry it over to practice.”

Setter Alan Jacks and hitter Kevin Kunkel also played key roles in the game and helped the Rams snap out of the early funk.

“We started passing better and got a flow going,” Kunkel said. “We have to figure out how to get started early. There were points in the game Shaler could have got things going.”

Shaler has some opportunities, but Neely said Jones and Jacks drawing attention away from Williams and Dunsmore allowed them to work a little more freely.

“Things are just meshing now with some of our new guys,” Neeley said. “Guys like Tim, Sam, and Nate Roberts can push us over the top.”

Pine-Richland will look to keep up the momentum as it plays Butler at 7 p.m. tonight, and Shaler looks to get back in the win column when it takes on Fox Chapel at 7 p.m. tonight.

Jerry Clark is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-779-6979 or jeclark@tribweb.com.

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