Winning WPIAL title a 'tall task' for North Allegheny volleyball
TribLIVE Sports Videos
The only thing bigger than the expectations heaped on the North Allegheny girls volleyball team is the height of its front line.
The Tigers are savvy enough to recognize that neither of those outsized qualities automatically earns them a spot among the WPIAL elite at the end of the season.
“They're big — a really big team with a lot of depth and a lot of tall bodies,” North Allegheny coach Heidi Miller said. “We have a lot of versatility offensively, but the game of volleyball typically boils down to who can pass and serve — and if we can pass and serve effectively, I think we'll be pretty good.”
North Allegheny, which began its season at the Mt. Lebanon Invitational Saturday, features seven players who stand at least 5-foot-10.
Erin Swartz (6-2) was one of the top sophomore middle hitters in the WPIAL last season, and the junior is joined in the North Allegheny middle by 5-10 Katie Humes and 6-1 sophomore Meg Morningstar.
Juniors Danielle Wall (5-11), Jamie Robatisin (5-11) and Jessica Samuels (5-10) and seniors Ava Mosbacher (6-0) and Ashley Leto (5-9) will roam the outside.
“It definitely helps to have some blocking and hitting when you're pretty big like we are,” Robatisin said. “Being tall on the inside and outside gives you an advantage.”
But as Miller said, the first hit is what's most important. All that blocking and hitting ability won't do any good without crisp passing.
“Being big doesn't always correlate to wins if you can't do the first touch first,” Miller said. “I keep emphasizing that with the kids, and they know they'll need to get good sets. On paper, we look like a good team — but we've got to be a team getting it done on the court as well.”
Its collective height isn't the only thing “on paper” making North Allegheny look so good as the season gets under way. The Tigers are the highest- ranked WPIAL team (No. 5) in the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association preseason poll.
But the Tigers have company. Not only is the WPIAL the only district in the state with three ranked teams in one classification — all three of those teams are in North Allegheny's section.
Defending WPIAL champion Seneca Valley is ranked No. 8, and reigning WPIAL runner-up Pine-Richland is No. 9.
During each of the past four seasons, the three Section 3-AAA rivals have comprised three-quarters of the WPIAL semifinals. At least two of them have been in the semifinals and/or one in the final every year since 2003.
“You like that level of competition.” Miller said. “I think if you can play and be good in our section, you can be good anywhere.”
And following Miller's credo, good teams have good setters. North Allegheny has the lone returning setter from last season's all-WPIAL first-team, senior Maura Nolan. Also among the six players who begin the season with significant starting experience on the varsity level are senior libero Kristin Mitchell and senior defensive specialist Rachel Samuels.
Miller estimates a dozen of her players are being recruited to play in college.
“If we're passing well, we can run a quick attack and run a really diverse offense,” Miller said. “We have a good swing coming from a lot of different directions and have many options.”
“We've got to take it one match at a time,” Robatisin said, “but (a WPIAL title) is definitely a goal. Definitely WPIALs and, even looking further ahead, states. But we know we have to work.”
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Lopsided loss to Eagles shows Steelers have issues aplenty
- Perryopolis man killed in 1-car crash
- Unusually cold winter, spring reduces population of Western Pa. stink bugs
- Steelers notebook: Keisel always hoped to return
- Hero Franklin Regional security guard out of work
- Woman in stable condition after Hill District shooting that killed daughter
- Rossi: Time with Penguins taught Bylsma importance of stability
- Records: Steelers RB Bell admitted smoking pot before traffic stop but denied being high
- Harrison’s 5 RBIs help Pirates pound Brewers
- Sandusky cover-up case unusually shrouded
- Pirates notebook: Prospect Sanchez makes 1st start at first base with Indy