Penn-Trafford, Derry volleyball teams look ahead to semifinals
Both the Penn-Trafford and Derry boys volleyball teams were happy to just get back on the court in a match situation Thursday.
After receiving byes for the WPIAL opening round, the Warriors and Trojans posted 3-0 wins in the quarterfinals. Now, they have a little breathing room for a few days.
The teams reached the semifinals and will take part in at least another match after Monday — either Wednesday's championship or consolation at Baldwin.
Penn-Trafford is focused on getting back to the championship match in order to defend its title. To do that, the second-seeded Warriors will have to get past third-seeded Bethel Park. It's a rematch of last year's championship.
“Bethel played before us (Thursday), and that's the first time I'd seen them. They are a very athletic team. They have a lot of new guys, but it should be a tough matchup,” Penn-Trafford coach Jim Schall said.
“We'll take them one at a time. We'd like to be playing in the finals on Wednesday. Either way, we'll play our hardest and see how things work out.”
Penn-Trafford beat Upper St. Clair, 25-17, 25-16, 25-17, to reach the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals for the third time in the past five years.
“We played pretty well. We hadn't played in a week, and that is a little unusual at this time of year,” Schall said. “We had a little bit of a slow start in the first game. After that, we played well.
“It's nice to be in the final four again. It's always a pretty neat atmosphere. We're looking forward to it.”
The Warriors have an experienced group with starters Joe Salesi (setter), Brandon McGowan (outside hitter), Zach Werksman (middle hitter), Austin Mossellem (libero) and Nick Tarabrella (outside hitter) back from last year's run.
“We have had to replace three really good hitters (from last year). The guys have done a really nice job filling some big shoes,” Schall said. “We definitely had some great players returning, but I am pleased with the new guys.”
Sean Kelly is one of the new additions. The junior has had an impact in his first year with the program.
“For a first-year player, he has been a good contributor. He has done a real good job for us,” Schall said.
Penn-Trafford, which reached the PIAA semifinals last year, hopes to earn a chance to defend its district crown against either North Allegheny or Seneca Valley.
“It's easy to get caught up in the things that we need to do better. But I am pretty happy with how the players have done overall. We're looking forward to playing in the semis. We've been playing pretty well, and the defense has come along a little bit,” Schall said. “When we got into the playoffs last year, I felt like we kept improving as we went along.
“I saw some good stuff in our first match. I kind of expect to see that again. We'll see how it goes.”
Fourth-seeded Derry shook off a slow start and posted a 25-23, 25-22, 25-18 win over fifth-seeded South Park in the Class AA quarterfinals.
“You never know what to expect when you get to playoffs. Sometimes, not only do teams tighten up, but they don't do what they've normally done. It was nice to see that we were able to do what we've done most of the season,” Derry coach Shawn Spencer said.
John Kerr had 10 kills for the Trojans in their win.
“I think we can certainly play better, for sure,” Spencer said. “I was really happy with the effort we put forth, especially defensively the entire match. We haven't always shown the intensity needed to succeed on defense. We did that, and it was nice to see in the playoffs.”
Derry meets top-seeded Beaver County Christian School in the semifinals.
The Eagles won last year's WPIAL title.
“We played them earlier in the year, and they beat us fairly easily. They are a very seasoned team,” Spencer said. “It'll be a tall task to try to dethrone them. We'll give it our best shot. If we can pass well and defend like we did (Thursday), we'll have a legitimate shot.”
Semifinal winners secure two of the WPIAL's three PIAA tournament berths. The other squads will meet in the consolation match Wednesday for the final state playoff spot.
“One of our goals is to try to qualify for the state tournament. We still have control of our destiny, as far as that goes. That's a positive thing. Win or lose, we'll still have a chance to do that,” Spencer said. “I think the kids have responded well this year. We've moved some of them around and trying them in different spots as the season went down. I am very happy with the entire team and the aspect that everyone is giving their best at this time of the year and trying to do well for each other.”
Joe Sager is a freelance writer.