Trib Cup: Carlynton girls volleyball team riding high

| Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013, 10:18 p.m.

The Carlynton girls volleyball team is in the midst of its most successful season in school history.

The Cougars are 8-2 overall and 6-1 in Section 6-A, good for second behind rival Bishop Canevin. Carlynton has already exceeded its 6-11 record (6-8 in section) from last season, and coach Emily Tupi has her sights set much higher.

“Believe it or not, and I'm so thrilled to say this, but we decided and learned very early on that we want to challenge for a section title and a playoff spot,” she said.

Because of the Cougars' impressive start to the season, they are featured in the Trib Total Media/WPXI High School Sports Award series this week. Carlynton is tied for fifth in the Class AA standings.

“This has been just such an awesome year for us all on and off the court,” Tupi said. “To do what we're doing in what I think is a very difficult section is incredible.

Every time we get on the court, the atmosphere is just amazing. We look up in the stands and see a lot of people out to support Carlynton volleyball.”

Although the Cougars did become a success over night, Tupi said there were several factors leading to the improved productivity from last season to this year.”

“I really think this season can really be attributed to the right time, the right girls and the will to win,” Tupi said. “I've coached these girls since seventh grade, so I knew with consistency, which we've had, this group would be driven given all the talent they have.”

After opening the season with a first-place finish at the Chartiers-Houston tournament, the Cougars have been dominant aside from a nonsection loss to Keystone Oaks and a 3-0 loss to top-ranked Bishop Canevin on Tuesday.

Despite the hiccup against the now section-leading Crusaders, Tupi said it has not taken away from the team's overall goal. If anything, the loss served as a humbling eye opener.

“I have to say we didn't play our best game and that's sad because we had to play against one of the best,” she said. “In retrospect, the loss won't hurt our playoff chances, but we obviously will have to play better.”

The Cougars' lineup boasts an experienced bunch, including five starters back from last year's team. Seniors Kylie Waugh (libero) and Kelly Jones (outside hitter) have three years of varsity experience. Senior Emily Burch starts at middle hitter and senior Hannah Murray at opposite.

Juniors Emily Brozenick and Jordan Melko round out the starting lineup. Tupi has the luxury of going to her bench and getting production from junior outside hitter Jessica Olkosky and junior Lexus Wood.

“This group of girls is doing exactly what I wanted to see happen at this program when I started coaching here seven years ago,” Tupi said. “I wanted there to be that excitement, that fun, that talent. … I just wanted the girls to really get recognized for their play.”

Tupi can sit back and take solace knowing that the Carlynton volleyball program is finally on the rise.

Brian Graham is a freelance writer.

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