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Bishop Canevin's 2nd-year volleyball program continues to make strides

| Saturday, May 20, 2017, 1:03 a.m.

It wasn't the ending the Bishop Canevin boys volleyball team had hoped for. But there was no shame for the Crusaders after a strong season.

The team fell in the opening round of the Class AA playoffs to Montour, 3-1, last week. Bishop Canevin, in its second year of WPIAL competition, finished its season with an 11-6 record.

“We are on the way,” Bishop Canevin coach Peter Barakat said. “It is all part of the process.”

The match started well as the Crusaders scored a 25-20 win in the first set. But Montour battled back to win three straight sets 25-11, 25-16, 25-20.

“We played a great first set,” Barakat said. “But Montour didn't crack. They are a mature team. They played better and better, and we couldn't match that.”

Bishop Canevin has reached the WPIAL playoffs each season it has been eligible.

While it was a tough ending to the season, it is hard not look ahead for the program. Several of the Crusaders' top players were underclassmen and will return next season.

Sophomore Matthew Menosky was a catalyst for the team's success. The outside hitter led the team in kills (248), digs (219) and serving aces (68). Menosky also was a leader in blocks with 20 — sophomore middle blocker Robert Andrews also hit the mark. Andrews also had 101 digs and 70 kills.

Freshman outside hitter Alex Shaughnessy had a strong debut with 111 kills and 133 digs.

“(Sophomore) Lee Li was a first-year player who learned a lot,” Barakat said. “We just had him focus on offensive stuff to get started. But he is athletic enough and expressed interest in doing a lot more for us next season.

“Our one defensive specialist, (sophomore) Noah Kelsch, was one of the most improved players.”

Barakat said he was impressed with how mature and poised the players became during the year. The Crusaders finished the regular season with a four-match winning streak that included victories over Keystone Oaks, Steel Valley, Seton-La Salle and OLSH. Barakat called the 3-1 win over the Rebels maybe the most impressive win of the season.

“They got better at playing from behind and not letting up after a good set,” Barakat said. “Our serve-receive also got better. That is one of the toughest parts of volleyball to master. Being able to do it well is so important for your offense in volleyball.”

Replacing the maturity of this season's senior group will be a challenge moving forward. The veteran group of six players — outside hitter Jesse Stechly, outside/middle hitter Ryley Tarasi, defensive specialist Cameron Reisz, right-side hitter Garrett Berner, middle blocker Connor Gaiters and setter Joey Kretz — provided leadership and included several players who helped start the team four years ago.

Stechly finished the season with 103 digs, while Kretz and Tarasi were second in serving aces with 18 each.

The seniors' legacy will be important as they have laid a foundation of success for the program to build on.

“They have built a program players want to be part of,” Barakat said. “Being a new team is tough. If you are a new team and don't win, you won't be getting a lot of attention. But that core of guys have helped put us on the right track.”

Nathan Smith is a freelance writer.

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