Penn-Trafford girls volleyball opens section play 6-0
When the volleyball season began, Penn-Trafford coach Jim Schall didn't know how well his girls would play.
Penn-Trafford graduated three key players from a squad that won the Section 1-AAA title with a 9-1 record and reached the WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals.
But this year's squad has come together quickly, and the Warriors reached the midpoint of the season with a 6-0 record following a 3-0 victory against Norwin on Tuesday. The Warriors also performed well in tournaments, placing third at Mt. Lebanon and second at Shaler.
Penn-Trafford's early season success is the focus of this week's Trib Total Media/WPXI High School Sports Award feature. Penn-Trafford has done well in all fall sports and is tied for third place in the Class AAAA standings.
The team begins the second half of the section season Friday at Hempfield, a team it defeated, 3-0, in their first meeting.
“I'm happy where we are right now, but the end of the year is when we want to be playing at our best,” Schall said. “We saw a couple of the top teams at those tournaments, and we played well.
“I want to see them play well each and every night. There was a stretch where we did enough to get by, and that's not how you want to play. I want to see them do their best each practice and each match.”
Schall, a 15-year veteran, doesn't want to take any team lightly. He's expecting a tougher battle Friday because Hempfield has some young talent.
“They are locked in a three-way tie for third place,” Schall said. “I expect them to be much improved.”
His team has done well filling in for missing pieces. Gone are hitters Ashley Solo (Penn State-Behrend), Emily Mahoy (St. Vincent) and Danielle D'Angelo. Stepping up were senior middle hitter Cassie Patterson, senior outside hitter Jen Antrill, junior middle hitter Alex Heiman and sophomore outside hitter Maria Palarino.
Patterson is a three-year starter, along with junior setter Taylor Solo. Also back are defensive specialist Lauren McGuigan and libero Samantha McGuigan, both seniors.
Lauren McGuigan said teamwork has been the key.
“We brought up (Alex and Maria) to help,” she said. “We've all meshed together. We have good camaraderie. I was concerned how we'd do at first. But once we started playing, I knew we'd be good.”
Antill said she's happy to get a chance to play all the time.
“Last year, I didn't play front row,” Antill said. “When I played, it was on the back row. This year, I'm playing all the way around. There is more pressure. I'm happy that I get a chance to play.”
Schall praised Antill's passing ability and touch. Samantha McGuigan, Lauren's twin sister, said she too was surprised at the team's quick start.
“I thought we'd do well but not as well as we are doing,” she said. “We have a really close team this year, and Coach Schall shows us how to be a good team.
“Sticking together and not giving up on each other has been the key. Norwin played well, but we let down a little in the third game. Then, we made it happen.”
Samantha McGuigan said the team's goal is to win the section.
“I think we can do that,” she said. “The next goal is to win the WPIAL and place in the state.”
Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 724-835-5095.