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Bishop Canevin volleyball ready to continue its success

| Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, 9:29 p.m.
Signal Item
Mary Hicks and the Bishop Canevin volleyball team face second-place Chartiers Houston in an important Section 6-A showdown on Thursday.
Signal Item
Junior Mary Hicks and the Bishop Canevin girls volleyball team have an 8-0 mark in Section 6-A action. Randy Jarosz | for the Signal Item
Signal Item
Junior Madison Zappi and the Bishop Canevin girls volleyball team has a 10-2 record so far this season. Randy Jarosz | for the Signal Item

Last week's win over Bentworth featured a first for the Bishop Canevin girls volleyball team.

It wasn't the first win of the season or first section win or even a win over a hated rival.

It was the first time the Lady Crusaders lost a set in Section 6-A action. Bishop Canevin defeated Bentworth, 3-1.

“We have been playing really well,” Bishop Canevin coach Kevin Walters said. “The team is focused on winning the section and making it back to the WPIAL championship game.”

Bishop Canevin had won seven matches — one against each section opponent — before dropping a set to Bentworth.

To help test the team during the regular season, Walters schedules games against opponents in Class AAA and AA. The 2012 slate features clashes with Fox Chapel, Montour, Knoch, Gateway and South Fayette.

“I feel that if we can compete, we should do really well in our class,” Walters said. “If we get wins against these big schools, my feeling is we can get wins against the teams on our level.”

The Lady Crusaders have responded well to the challenges they have faced and jumped out to a 10-2 overall mark, with the only losses coming to Fox Chapel, 3-2, and Avonworth, 3-2.

“We get really excited for those games” senior setter Katie Oliverio said. “We go in to those games full-force and ready to compete. We always know we will have a good game.”

The strong start is just a continuation of the success Bishop Canevin has seen in the past few years. Last season, the Lady Crusaders fell one game short of reaching the PIAA Class A playoffs, losing in the consolation games to Bentworth — the team it tied for the Section 6-A crown.

In 2010, the Lady Crusaders were runners-up in the WPIAL tournament and made a run in the state playoffs. The Lady Crusaders have reached the WPIAL playoffs every year since 2007.

“I have been with the program for six years and we are now at the point where we know we will make the playoffs,” Walters said. “Our plan every year is to make a deep run into the playoffs and make it to states.”

The Lady Crusaders have plenty of talent to work with to make a return to the PIAA tournament. The team lost two all-state players from last season — outside hitter Natalie Medved and libero Joie Hrapla — but return every other starter.

Oliverio returns as the team's setter. The senior and two-year captain is second on the team in digs with 178 and leads the team in assists with 206.

She is joined as a captain by senior middle hitter Jody Mackin and senior outside hitter Rachel Betzner. Mackin has 64 kills, 29 digs and 15 blocks, and Betzner has three digs and 30 kills.

The team also returns two seasoned juniors. Outside hitter Ashley Grimm has 187 digs — making her the team's leader in that category — and 73 kills. Middle hitter Callie Jacobs has 88 kills — a team best — and also has 37 digs and 22 blocks.

The team is also getting valuable minutes from junior libero Samantha Kelsch and three freshmen: setter Bailey McDonald, outside hitters Erin Cunningham and Julia Menosky.

“(Kelsch) is seeing more playing time this season,” Walters said. “She played left back for us last season. She is at libero this year and is doing a really good job.”

The team preached that its first goal of the season is to capture the Section 6-A title for the fourth straight season. After that, all eyes are set on the team's postseason success.

“We want to win the WPIALs for sure,” Mackin said. “Then we want to get to states and get as far as we can. And we want to play well along the way.”

Bishop Canevin returns to action today, Thursday when it travels to Chartiers-Houston. Start time is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at nsmith@tribweb.com or 412-388-5813.

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