Trib Cup: Hopewell volleyball again dominating opponents
Terry Burkovic knows a thing or two — or six — about winning WPIAL volleyball titles.
Burkovic has won six WPIAL crowns dating to 2003, including a championship last year after a four-year drought from the top of the podium.
For yet another dominant regular season in the WPIAL, the Hopewell girls volleyball team is the focus of this week's Trib Total Media/WPXI High School Sports Award feature. The girls' success is one reason Hopewell is in third place in the Class AAA standings.
This week, the Vikings (11-2, 8-0 in Section 1-AA) defeated Mohawk, 3-0, on Wednesday and dropped a 3-0 decision to Class AAA power Seneca Valley on Monday. They shut out Beaver — another section foe — on Oct. 2.
“We're doing well, and we're improving each day we go into the gym,” Burkovic said. “We take each opponent one at a time and don't look ahead.
“We are in the playoffs, and we are looking forward to seeing what we can do.”
Expectations have been high for nearly a decade around Hopewell, and this season is no different, according to Burkovic.
“We always set our goals extremely high because that's where our program is now,” he said. “I'm not going to say we expect to be No. 1, but we expect to be a contender for the WPIAL title.”
Burkovic's senior-laden group features several players who've gained significant Division I and II recognition, including Maryland basketball recruit Shatori Walker-Kimbrough. Walker-Kimbrough is known locally for her basketball abilities but has flown under the radar as a two-time all-state and three-time all-WPIAL volleyball player as the team's middle hitter.
“It's exciting that we are where we are right now, but I feel like we haven't even played our best volleyball yet,” Walker-Kimbrough said. “I feel like we haven't hit our peak yet, and we're just going to get better from here.”
Senior outside hitter Mackenzie Biggs, senior center Monet Smith and senior libero Sydney Belcastro have flanked Walker-Kimbrough and been proven contributors to the state's top-ranked team in Class AA, according to the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association.
“We've come back pretty strong from last year, and we were a pretty dominant team last year,” Walker-Kimbrough said. “We did graduate a lot of seniors, but what people don't know is that we had a lot of talent last year and not all of it had a chance to show. We had weapons people didn't know about that are out there playing now.”
Still, despite this group already having won a WPIAL title of their own, Burkovic said there's a desire to win another championship.
“They want to live up to a legacy that previous teams have built on, and they want to claim their own title and create their own legacies,” Burkovic said. “When they get down, they try to stay focused and get back one point at a time.
“It's been there, done that. They've seen a lot of it, so the experience does help.”
The Vikings will get their shot to cement their legacies and capture a second straight WPIAL title when the playoffs commence Oct. 23.
Brian Graham is a freelance writer.