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Gateway stays alive for playoffs with Section 4-AAA sweeps

| Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, 9:00 p.m.
The Times Express
Gateway senior Allie Briley keeps her focus during a Section 4-AAA match against Plum on Sept. 27, 2012. Gary Bills | The Times Express

The Gateway varsity girls volleyball team remained alive for a WPIAL playoff spot in Section 4-AAA at the start of this week, and the Gators stayed in the hunt by taking care of business against Penn Hills and Woodland Hills last week in a pair of three-game sweeps.

Last Thursday's match with the Wolverines — 25-3, 25-8 and 25-12 — was a straight-forward performance as the team continued to prepare for the stretch run in the section.

The Gators, who entered the week 5-4 in section play and in fourth place, hosted first-place Oakland Catholic on Tuesday evening.

It was a match that was to be contested past the deadline for this week's edition.

The top three teams from Section 4 qualify for the playoffs.

Gateway visits section rival Plum this Tuesday, and it will try to turn around their fortunes from a 3-0 loss to the Mustangs on Sept. 20.

“We've had our ups and downs,” Gateway head coach Jay Wu said. “It hasn't been easy. They are a resilient bunch. They've worked hard and always have wanted to get better. They've fought through the tough times and learned from them. They've also enjoyed the good times.”

The Gateway seniors — Kayla Aiello, Nicole Benvenuto, Allie Briley, Brandy Parks and Maria Taylor — were to be honored in a ceremony prior to Tuesday's match with Oakland Catholic.

Wu said he's pleased with the way the seniors not only have carried themselves in matches this season but also the way they have brought along the younger players who will make up the team moving forward.

“They realize it's a team sport, and I've noticed, especially this year, they've brought in the younger girls and made them feel welcomed and a part of the team,” he said. “They've tried to make it more of a family than just a team.

“On nights like (Woodland Hills) when I pull them to put in some younger girls, they realize they will not be around for ever, and somebody else has to shoulder the responsibility in the future. They see that and are more than willing to help coach the younger girls and help bring them along.”

Briley made four kills, and Taylor delivered 14 straight service points in the 25-3 first set against Woodland Hills last Thursday.

Sophomore Emily Perry came in and served out the first game, and the rout was on.

Gateway also took advantage of several Woodland Hills miscues in the first set.

Juniors Gabriella Davis and Kayge Thomson, sophomores Julia Bauccio and Janette Kim and freshman Angela Toner also were in on the victory over the Wolverines.

Davis matched Taylor from the first game with 14 straight service points in the second set en route to the Gators' 25-8 win.

Wu said it was nice to see his team play well and have fun.

“They do have a lot of fun, but on the nights they struggle, they are harder on themselves,” Wu said.

“When you are losing a match, it's harder to have fun. On nights like (last Thursday against Woodland Hills) when you are the dominant team, its easy to have fun. They really were excited and enjoyed being on the court. That's what I want them to experience.”

Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at mlove@tribweb.com.

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