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Trib Cup: Mars volleyball team bolstered by 3-year starters

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Class AAAA

1. Peters Township 57

2. Penn-Trafford 45

3. North Allegheny 42

4. Mt. Lebanon 40

5. Bethel Park 36

6. Upper St. Clair 34

7. Fox Chapel 33

8. Pine-Richland 32

9. Seneca Valley 31

10. Norwin 28

Class AAA

1t. Central Valley 42

1t. Mars 42

3t. Quaker Valley 38

3t. South Park 38

5. Hopewell 35

6. South Fayette 32

7. Thomas Jefferson 30

8. Knoch 29

9t. Beaver 28

9t. Elizabeth Forward 28

9t. Indiana 28

Class AA

1. Greensburg C.C. 39

2. Bishop Canevin 37

3. Shady Side Acad. 36

4. Seton-La Salle 32

5. Bentworth 29

6. Neshannock 27

7. Avonworth 26

8. Burrell 25

9. South Allegheny 23

10. Chartiers-Houston 22

Class A

1. Sewickley Academy 45

2. Serra Catholic 26

3. OLSH 25

4. Riverview 24

5. Springdale 23

6. Vincentian 21

7. California 17

8t. Frazier 16

8t. Geibel 16

10. Rochester 15


Section victories: 1 point

Playoff berth: 1

Playoff victory: 2

WPIAL/PIAA runner-up: 5/15

WPIAL/PIAA title: 10/20

Results for football, soccer, volleyball, plus golf, tennis playoffs

+ Classification based on PIAA enrollment figures

Top high school sports
By Brian Graham
Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012, 11:18 p.m.

Section titles and trips to the WPIAL quarterfinals are usually a good measuring stick for local volleyball programs.

This season, however, Mars coach Dan Mountain has loftier hopes for a deeper run into the WPIAL and PIAA tournaments.

“We've been setting our goal pretty high to get past the quarterfinals, get into semis and hopefully get into the WPIAL championship,” Mountain said. “Also, we'd like to go far in the state tournament as well.”

For their play so far this season, the Planets are the focus of this week's Trib Total Media/WPXI High School Sports Award feature, and they are a primary reason why Mars is tied for first in the Class AAA standings.

The Planets were 14-3 overall and 10-1 in Section 4-AA heading into Thursday's section-finale match with Knoch and were tied with Freeport for first place.

In recent weeks, the Planets knocked off Burrell, 3-0, on Oct. 16, lost to section rival Freeport, 3-1, on Oct. 11 and shut out Highlands, 3-0, on Oct. 9. Mountain said if his squad hopes to surpass the WPIAL quarterfinals like the 2009 team that made it to the semifinals, it is going to take persistence from a team that's littered with varsity experience.

“Like any season, it's a grind,” he said. “They have remained focused because they want to make sure that they didn't finish the same way that they have. They've lost in the quarterfinals the last two years to Freeport, so they are hoping to take it further this year.”

The Planets field a starting six that has a combined 13 years of varsity experience— a number Mountain hopes will be an advantage in the postseason.

Senior outside hitters Jaden Zimmer and Abby Matusik are three-year starters who have picked up significant kills throughout the year. Middle hitters Emily King and Kelsey Bruce have been two of the team's most reliable players at picking up points at opportune times.

“I'd say our biggest strength is our hitting,” Zimmer said. “We have a big, tall front line and some powerful arms on our hitters. Off the court, we're such good friends, I think that helps us in games.”

Two other seniors with three years of starting experience are setter Katie King and libero Melanie Dinderman. King has been key in setting up her teammates and keeping the opposition on its heels, and Dinderman has been solid defensively in the back row. Junior Kelsey Bruce and senior Morgan Verplank round out the starting six.

“This group of girls has worked incredibly hard, and it's all starting to pay off,” Dinderman said. “We played Hopewell, who made it to states last year, and we were right next to them in the tournament. I think we have a chance of going to states and maybe winning.”

No matter how the season concludes, Mountain said he is proud of how the group has developed over the years, and it will be tough to surpass the success they've had as a whole.

“This is one of the best groups I've had since I've been here,” Mountain said. “They've gotten better every year. We've been tied for the section championship in all but one year. ... This team has been great for us.”

The Planets will learn their postseason fate Monday, and the WPIAL playoffs begin Tuesday.

Brian Graham is a freelance writer.


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