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Sgattoni ranks with all-time best female volleyball players at Baldwin

| Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016, 5:36 p.m.
randy jarosz | for the tribune-review
Baldwin's Maddi Sgattoni

Maddi Sgattoni has been a common thread in the tremendous success of the Baldwin girls' volleyball program in recent years.

• As a sophomore in 2014, Sgattoni helped propel the Lady Highlanders to WPIAL and section titles, and to a berth in the PIAA semifinal round.

• As a junior in 2015, Sgattoni and the Baldwin girls repeated as WPIAL and section champions, and again advanced to the PIAA semifinals.

This season, Baldwin finished as the WPIAL Class AAAA runner-up after placing third in section play, and saw its season end in the PIAA quarterfinal round.

Sgattoni, a dynamic 5-foot-11 senior outside hitter, firmly has cemented her place as one of the best female volleyball players in school history.

“Maddi is certainly the best player I've coached. She may be the best at Baldwin since Jen Flynn,” Chris Kelly, Baldwin's coach, said. “If she's in the conversation as a top-five all-time player, that's saying a lot. Baldwin has had a lot of great players over the years.”

Indeed, there are 20 female athletes who have been inducted into the Baldwin sports hall of fame for volleyball.

They are Vida Kernich Komer (1983), Olga Cambest (1987), Karen Fetsko (1987), Diane Wilds (1989), Julie Fernacz (1990), Sue Reiff (1990), Laurie Flynn (1991), Kelly Kovach (1991), Lori Frisco (1993), Abby Slovonic (1993), Jen Pafford (1995), Jen Flynn (1996), Kristie Veith (1996), Katie Leaf (1997), Becky Galati (1999), Mandy Altomari (2000), Ashley Green (2001), Erin Trageser (2001), Katie Barker (2002) and Tawnya Storino (2004).

Sgattoni, who has accepted a scholarship to the U.S. Naval Academy where she will play NCAA Division I volleyball, was a four-year varsity starter at Baldwin.

She has been named all-state and All-WPIAL multiple times, WPIAL Player of the Year twice, and was a first-team all-section four times.

She also was honored as the 2015 Baldwin Purbalite Female Athlete of the Year, and was a PrepVolleyball.com Soph 79 Selection in 2014.

“Maddi is an all-around player. She excels at every skill in volleyball — passing, defense, hitting, blocking and serving. As a freshman, she even did some setting for half the season,” Kelly said.

“Despite often being the best player in the gym and being named WPIAL Player of the Year, Maddi still works as hard as all of her teammates. She never stops seeking to improve her game.”

Baldwin compiled a 39-0 record against WPIAL opponents during Sgattoni's sophomore and junior years — 19-0 in 2014 and 20-0 in 2015 — and was 43-2 overall.

The Lady Highlanders ended up 15-7 overall in 2016.

“I have seen Maddie play at least three or four matches the past couple of years,” said Paul Hindes, a member of Baldwin's hall of fame who is the school's all-time winningest coach. “There is no question she would have been a welcomed addition to any teams in the past.

“She certainly is one of the best to have ever played at Baldwin and deserves to be on that (all-time best) list.”

Sgattoni's stats from her junior and senior seasons are indeed remarkable, as she posted close to 700 kills, 500 digs and 100 service aces.

Lynda Scahill, a former standout athlete at Baldwin, is vice president and recruiting coordinator of the Pittsburgh Elite Volleyball Club, and has been coaching volleyball in the Pittsburgh area for more than 30 years. She was coach of the Baldwin girls' volleyball team from 1998-2008.

“There have been so many memorable volleyball players, both male and female, through the years at Baldwin, beginning in the early 1980s,” Scahill said. “I would say Maddie ranks among the top five when you think of players who were true game-changers, players who led their teams by example, and their teams achieved greatness because of their play on the court and often their leadership off of the court.

“Players like that who come to mind include Sue Reiff, Julie Fernecz, Kelly Kovach, Jen Flynn, Diana Andreyko, Danielle Woods and, most definitely, Maddie Sgattoni.”

Scahill continued: “The coaches at the U.S. Naval Academy are excited to welcome her to their campus, and it speaks to the level of her discipline and commitment to excellence. She will definitely be remembered among the best that Baldwin volleyball has had grace the court through the decades of gritty, exciting women's volleyball.”

Sgattoni was honored with the KDKA-TV/Allegheny Health Network “Extra Effort” award earlier this year in a ceremony at the high school.

The award is presented to students who excel athletically and in the community.

“I was very excited for Maddi to win the award,” Kelly said. “She is certainly deserving, given how hard she works all the time.

“Maddi, along with the rest of the team, has brought so much positive attention to Baldwin over the last three seasons.”

Sgattoni has been involved in Special Olympics, girls' youth volleyball camps, and the Bridge Building mentoring program, which helps eighth-graders transition into high school.

She competes in club volleyball on the Renaissance team, and also has participated in the Whitehall Police D.A.R.E. program as a guest speaker at Harrison Middle School.

“Maddi Sgattoni is one of the best all-around student-athletes I have ever been around,” Vince Sortino, Baldwin's athletic director, said. “Maddi's hard work and determination are evident on the court. She was one of the (team) leaders for our WPIAL championships.

“Maddi carries that same work ethic into the classroom. We are all so proud of (her) accomplishments; we are even more excited to continue to watch her grow while she attends the Naval Academy.”

Sgattoni, who has a 4.2 GPA and ranks in the top 15 of her class, actually has been involved in volleyball since her grade school days, as noted by Scahill.

“I remember running a summer camp for third-to-eighth graders over 10 years ago and seeing two little eyes looking into the gym through the window in the lobby door,” Scahill said. “When I went out to look who it was, (Sgattoni's) grandmother said, ‘Oh, she's just in first grade. She can wait.' And I said, ‘Come on in. If she wants to play, I want her here.

“That first-grader was Maddi. She held her own on the court as a first-grader, and has never looked back.”

Sgattoni, who also considered attending Columbia or Lehigh, plans to study engineering in college.

Ray Fisher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-388-5820 or rfisher@tribweb.com.

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