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Penn-Trafford volleyball team ready to defend crown

| Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012, 8:55 p.m.

Coming off a section championship, Penn-Trafford's girls volleyball team will try to repeat with a combination of youth and experience.

The Warriors bring back some key pieces from the team that went 9-1 to win Section 1-AAA and reach the WPIAL quarterfinals last year, but holes in the lineup remain to be filled after the graduation of a group of three-year starters that led the 2011 team.

“We have a lot of new kids that are going to be playing,” Penn-Trafford coach Jim Schall said. “I think we have some talent, and we have a couple pretty experienced kids returning. It's a good mix of new kids and kids that have been around, and I'm pretty happy with where they are.”

With the most experience coming back is junior setter Taylor Solo, who again will be Penn-Trafford's playmaker.

Middle hitter Cassie Patterson also was a regular in the P-T lineup last year, and she is the Warriors' only senior along the front line this year.

The rest of the upperclassmen are at home along the back row, as libero Samantha McGuigan and defensive specialists Lauren McGuigan and Jen Antill all are entering their final season for Penn-Trafford.

Given the positions of the Warriors' returning players, it comes as little surprise that ball control is what Schall described as his team's strength during the preseason.

“I think serving and passing, we do that pretty well, and that's going to keep you in most games,” the coach said. “We have experience at spots doing that, and Taylor always does a great job setting, so our offense should come along.”

Junior middle hitter Alex Heiman will join Patterson in the middle, while the team has three new outside hitters — sophomore Maria Palarino, junior Stephanie Jones and sophomore Angela Tarabrella — that will end up on the hitting end of the P-T attack.

Though many of the attacking options are young, Schall is confident his team will come around and be able to challenge for one of the top spots in the section.

“It was a fun year last year, and I think the kids would like to repeat that,” Schall said. “We're not as experienced, but I think the team is doing well, and there's more room for improvement than we had with our more experienced groups.

“I hope to win another section title, but that doesn't mean it will be disappointing if we don't.”

P-T's section this season includes last year's other playoff teams — Kiski Area and Latrobe — along with Norwin, Hempfield, Franklin Regional and newcomer Laurel Highlands.

The Warriors open their regular season Saturday at 9 a.m., when they will get a chance to face some of the WPIAL's best at the Mt. Lebanon Tournament.

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or mgrubba@tribweb.com.

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