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Deep senior class to lead Greensburg Salem volleyball

| Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012, 8:54 p.m.

The Greensburg Salem girls volleyball team got a taste of the postseason last year, and the players are prepared to feed their appetite again this season.

The Golden Lions split the section title with Indiana last year after finishing 12-6 overall and 11-1 in their section. They were knocked out of the WPIAL playoffs in the first round by Knoch.

Coach Brian Higginbotham hopes for similar results, and a group of experienced returning starters will be the catalysts for a deep playoff run.

“My expectation every year is to compete for the section title,” he said. “That's our main concern before anything else. After that it's to play hard every day and compete against anyone we play against.”

Higginbotham will have to replace three graduates that played key roles in last year's team. The loss of Lisa Kissell, Brianna O'Neal and Hannah Karas will be a challenge as the season opens, but several underclassmen had opportunities to contribute last year.

The Golden Lions' starting rotation will feature seniors Taylor Mehan, Caylene McKinney and Sydney Bacha and junior Kylie McSwaney. Higginbotham said he's comfortable that the aforementioned starters will fill their roles adequately and provide leadership for the younger players.

“We have a slew of other seniors with leadership, but not all of them have a lot of playing experience,” Higginbotham said. “I have nine seniors this year, and they all work hard.”

Senior Dakota Jones is also expected to contribute despite rehabbing from a knee injury and the subsequent surgery she underwent last season. Higginbotham knows it will take time for Jones to catch up to the speed of the game, but once she does, she'll play a big part in the offense.

Another notable change for Greensburg Salem will be the switch to Section 3 where it will meet Apollo-Ridge, Derry, Ford City, Indiana and Kittanning. The Golden Lions' rivalry with Indiana will continue, and Higginbotham said the section title will once again come down to that match.

“We already know that Indiana is a tough team,” he said. “Every time we play them, we have to make sure we play at the top level to be able to compete to win.”

The Golden Lions had their first test Saturday at the Mt. Lebanon Tournament against some of the top competition the WPIAL has to offer. Greensburg Salem went 0-7, but Higginbotham said the schedule was made with the hopes of preparing the girls for the competition down the stretch.

“We play a lot of tough out-of-section games against a lot of Triple-A teams,” he said. “We hope that experience will help to prepare girls for the level of competition in the playoffs.”

Brian Graham is a freelance writer.

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