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South Fayette volleyball caps season in quarterfinals

| Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, 1:30 a.m.

There was only one thing South Fayette girls volleyball coach Scott Sundgren wanted from this season — more of it.

After watching his young roster mature over the season, the veteran coach said he would have liked to finish with a couple more sets going in his squad's favor.

“I'm happy with the season, but I would have liked for us to win a few more matches,” said Sundgren, in his 16th season with the program. “I always want to win a few more matches. I think the team developed well over the several months. A lot of young players had to step into roles normally assigned to upper classmen. They did an excellent job.”

The No. 5 Lions saw their season come to a close last week as they fell to No. 4 Thomas Jefferson, 3-0, in the WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals.

It was the second time this season the teams played — the Jaguars won 3-0 on Oct. 9.

“I knew they would be tough,” Sundgren said. “They played really well against us the first time we saw them during the season. We played well overall, but we just couldn't win the long rallies. We had some opportunities but couldn't capitalize on them. TJ is scrappy with an excellent setter. They bring a strong outside attack.”

South Fayette topped Laurel Highlands, 3-1, in the opening round of the playoffs. The Lions finished in second place in Section 2, with a 10-2 record.

The team found success despite being in a bit of a rebuilding mode with only three seniors on the roster and relied on underclassmen for production. While it wasn't a deep senior class, it was crucial in South Fayette's success this season. Libero Madison Johnson, defensive specialist Taylor Marmarelli and outside hitter Haley Altemus won't be easy to replace next season.

“With only three of them in the senior class, they really had to rely on the rest of the classes to step up,” Sundgren said. “I think that can be a challenge, but they were able to bring the team together. I'll remember them for their perseverance and the skill level they brought to the program.”

The Lions have plenty to be excited about moving forward. The team will return an experienced roster in 2018 with a battle-tested junior class that includes middle hitters Olivia Goerdt and Lexi Yates, as well as setter Aubery Hetland.

“My juniors also stepped up in a big way,” Sundgren said. “(Goerdt) worked hard all season and, after working all winter to return from injury, found her swing in October. She had some incredible playoff games. (Yates) continued to battle for us in the middle.

“(Hetland) worked hard every day and demanded excellence from herself.”

Right-side hitter Lauren Saulle, defensive specialist Nicolena Yanosick and outside hitter Alisa Gealy were part of a sophomore class that got a taste of varsity action.

“We knew (Saulle) would be good for us this year, but she really raised the bar,” Sundgren said.

“(Sophomore) Amanda Malosh was always ready to step in for anything I needed defensively. I had a freshman, Lilah Speca, that I could always count on.”

Nathan Smith is a freelance writer.

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