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Plum seeded 13th in deep WPIAL Class AAA volleyball field

| Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, 8:56 p.m.
Plum freshman middle blocker Clairissa Hankinson is one of three Plum volleyball players to earn all-section second-team honors. Gary Bills | Plum Advance Leader

Plum was scheduled to open the WPIAL Class AAA girls volleyball play- offs Wednesday at Mt. Lebanon, and the Mustangs attempted to snap a streak of seven straight first-round defeats.

Plum finished Section 4-AAA play 9-3, and they were slotted as the No. 13 seed.

The Blue Devils, the Section 5 champion, drew the No. 2 seed.

Shaler, who split with Plum in section play and also finished 9-3, entered the playoffs as the No. 6 seed.

“I can't say I understood that big of a gap between the two seeds, but I fully anticipated Shaler being the higher seed,” Flaherty said. “They had been playing some really good ball and beat us in the most recent meeting. Where there are ties in the section standings, who won the last matchup is looked at most.

“I think spreading teams from the same section out on the bracket also has something to do with it. There were a whole lot of teams that were 9-3, and the committee did the best they could to balance it out.”

Flaherty said, however, that in the playoffs, if you want to be a champion, you have to go through each challenge and eventually face all the top opponents.

The game between Plum and Mt. Lebanon was to be contested past the deadline for this week's edition.

Check out triblive.com/neighborhoods/yourplum for a recap of the game.

The winner between the Mustangs and Blue Devils will face the winner of No. 5 Pine-Richland and No. 12 Norwin in the quarter- finals next week.

Flaherty said Class AAA is deep this year, and it will be interesting to see who is on top when the playoffs conclude.

Oakland Catholic, which finished 12-0 in Section 4, is on top to start the playoffs.

The Eagles received a bye and will play the winner of the 8-9 matchup between Penn-Trafford and Chartiers Valley.

Seneca Valley, last year's WPIAL AAA champion, will not defend its crown.

The Raiders finished fourth in Section 3 behind section champ North Allegheny, Fox Chapel and Pine-Richland.

Flaherty said he and his players got a good look at some of the teams in the playoffs during last Saturday's North Allegheny Invitational at North Allegheny High School.

WPIAL playoff qualifiers North Allegheny, Pine-Richland, Fox Chapel, Mt. Lebanon and Shaler were in action among the 10-team field.

“It was nice to get a sneak preview of those teams, especially Mt. Lebanon,” Flaherty said.

“We don't normally see some of those teams during the regular season. We were able to see overall talent levels and who the big players are for each team. It gave us something to work with.”

Plum played one game to 21 against eight of the nine other teams — it didn't play Shaler — and the Mustangs finished with a 3-5 overall record. The top six teams moved on to the bracketed playoffs, and Plum finished in a three-way tie with Baldwin and Fox Chapel.

Baldwin, however, won the tiebreaker based on its wins against both the Mustangs and Foxes.

All-Section

The Section 4-AAA coaches recently voted for the all-section teams, and Plum was well-represented with seven players on the three squads.

Senior outside hitter Alyssa Samarco earned first-team honors, along with sophomore right-side hitter Rachel Satira and sophomore middle blocker Courtney Zezza.

A trio of Plum players — senior defensive specialist Caitlyn McDade, freshman middle blocker Clairissa Hankinson and senior outside hitter Maria Daugherty — were selected to the second team.

Senior defensive specialist Denise Polishen garnered an honorable-mention nod.

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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