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Trib Cup: Fox Chapel girls volleyball among WPIAL title contenders

| Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012, 11:00 p.m.
Fox Chapel's Sarah Bradley (11) sets up to spike against Gateway's Nicole Benvenuto during the volleyball game at Fox Chapel High School on Monday, October 15, 2012. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch
Fox Chapel's Riley Herrmann (13) and Carly Slovenec (20) attempt to block a spike against Gateway's Maria Taylor (25) during the volleyball game at Fox Chapel High School on Monday October 15, 2012. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch

Fox Chapel's move to Section 3 in Class AAA girls volleyball brought a difficult slate of games and a surprising win total.

The Foxes have won 15 straight games, including Tuesday's 3-0 victory over Canon-McMillan in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs, where Fox Chapel (10-3) earned the No. 3 seed behind Oakland Catholic and North Allegheny.

“It's been a very rewarding season as a coach, that's for sure,” coach Sara D'Angelo said. “I've been with these girls for three years. A lot played as freshmen and sophomores, so to see them get to this point is rewarding.”

The spotlight is on the Foxes in this week's Trib Total Media/WPXI High School Sports Award feature. The girls volleyball team and its impressive win streak is a primary reason why Fox Chapel High school is in seventh place in the Class AAAA standings.

“I think we had an, I don't want to say a surprising season, but I think we surprised some people,” D'Angelo said.

“I think we won some games people thought we wouldn't have coming into the season.”

This season, the Foxes shocked everyone but themselves when they topped perennial powers North Allegheny, Pine-Richland and Seneca Valley, who became section opponents this year.

They finished tied for second with Pine-Richland, both with 9-3 records. North Allegheny went 10-2 to win the section title.

Fox Chapel ended the season ranked ninth in the state by the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association.

Defeating such talented teams is something D'Angelo didn't expect, but also didn't surprise her.

“I coached two years at Plum, and this is my third year at Fox Chapel,” she said. “When we beat all three of those teams, it was unexpected if you look at previous times we've played them.”

What the Foxes lack in size on the court, they make up for with an inherent ability to control the tempo of the game and frustrate the opposition.

“I think what we lack in height, we make up in ball control,” D'Angelo said. “Our defense is good, service and passing is good. We control the ball and the pace of the game, and it definitely can frustrate a team trying to get a kill every time they touch the ball.”

It starts with senior libero Marcy Meinert — a three-year starter and one of the Foxes' most consistent players — and senior setter Alyson Hess.

Senior middle hitters Sarah Bradley and Carly Slovenec have manned the net to near perfection and have provided digs and kills at opportune times throughout the season. Senior right-side hitter Riley Herrmann tore each of her ACLs in the past two seasons but has provided a huge boost since her midseason return.

“I think our biggest strength is our ability to play as a team,” D'Angelo said. “We have the ability to where if we are weak somewhere, we make up in strengths elsewhere.

“We have a great balancing act as a team. The girls have a great chemistry.”

A scary thought for WPIAL championship contenders could be what the Foxes have on the bench. A strong class of juniors in Betsy Slagle, Megan Holingsworth and Michaela Patsko have contributed throughout the season and have plenty of postseason experience.

“I think after this season it's nice because I have freshmen I called up to varsity this year,” D'Angelo said. “They've experienced something, and once you've been through playoffs and tough practices and big games you have that little bit of experience.”

Fox Chapel will play Upper St. Clair in the WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals Tuesday at a site and time that has yet to be determined.

Brian Graham is a freelance writer.

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