Gateway hosts undefeated Plum in Section 4-AAA battle
The Gateway varsity girls volleyball team played at the Plum Invitational on Saturday, and the Gators advanced to the semifinals of the championship bracket before falling to Plum in two sets.
Head coach Jay Wu said playing the Mustangs at the tournament was important for his team's preparation before facing them again Thursday.
The Section 4-AAA match between 4-0 Plum and 2-2 Gateway is set for 7 p.m.
“(Playing Plum in the tournament) was an excellent preview for Thursday's match,” Wu said.
“It gives us a good chance to see what they are doing and the changes they've made from last year.”
Wu said Plum has experience with a pair of senior outside hitters in Alyssa Samarco and Maria Daugherty, as well as senior libero Caitlyn McDade.
But the Mustangs' young middle hitters — three at 6-foot or taller — can't be overlooked.
“Plum's height alone is enough to concern most teams,” Wu said.
“Those girls are tall, but they're not unstoppable. We just have to put up a good block in front of them and play some solid defense. It will be a challenge, but the girls are ready for it.”
Gateway owns straight-set section victories over Penn Hills and Woodland Hills, and it dropped section contests to Shaler and Oakland Catholic.
The Gators close out the first half of the section schedule this Tuesday at home against Mc- Keesport.
“We're making some changes and shaking things up a little bit,” Wu said.
“They realize there is still a lot of season left, and they know they can hold their own against pretty much any team as long as we come out strong, pass well, communicate and stay focused.”
The top three teams from Section 4 advance to the WPIAL playoffs in Class AAA.
Gateway began action at the Plum Tournament with six pool-play games.
The Gators went 4-2. They dropped two games to Riverview but rallied to sweep both Brentwood and Highlands.
“Riverview has that pretty solid hitter (Robert Morris recruit Arden Fisher) who transferred from Oakland Catholic,” Wu said.
“We lost both games (against Riverview), but we held our own and kept them close. We came out really strong against Brentwood and Highlands. It was nice to come out and play well. The girls had some nice plays that boosted their confidence. That kind of helped going into bracket play.”
Gateway went three sets with Deer Lakes in the quarterfinals before claiming the match and moving onto the semifinals.
“Overall, they played pretty well,” Wu said. “It was a long day for them with a lot of games played. At the end, they were pretty tired and found it tough to keep up. But they fought hard.”
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.