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Plum ready to tackle P-T, Derry Tournament challenges

| Wednesday, April 3, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Plum Advance Leader
Plum senior Matthew Shepherd digs a ball during a practice in the main gym at Plum High School on March 25, 2013.

It still is early in the 2013 season, but Plum varsity boys volleyball head coach Mike Larko Jr. said earlier this week that this week's Section 3-AAA games — at Latrobe on Tuesday and at home Thursday against Penn-Trafford — were and are very important contests as the race for the playoffs heats up.

“It's a huge week for us,” said Larko Jr., who saw his team kick off its section slate strong last week with a 3-0 win over Penn Hills.

“It's only the second week of the season, but it's big games against two of the better teams in the section and teams we will be competing against for playoff spots and hopefully the section title. We want to take advantage of these early-season games.”

Plum's game with Latrobe was to be played past the deadline for this week's edition.

Plum went 3-7 in 10 games at the North Allegheny Tournament two weeks ago, and Larko hopes his team will fare better as it returns to tournament action on Saturday at Derry.

The 16-team field — with the likes of North Allegheny, Altoona, Norwin, Penn-Trafford and the host Trojans — Larko said, always is a good test for all the teams who attend.

“There's always good competition there,” he said.

“It's one of the stronger tournaments we will be at all year. I am looking forward to seeing how the guys compete. It will give us a chance to work on some things and try a couple of different lineups.”

The teams will play through two sets of pool-play games with the hopes of qualifying for the championship bracket playoffs.

Plum also will be in tournament action on April 13 at Fox Chapel, and the Mustangs will host its annual Plum Invitational on April 27.

Larko said he liked the way his team played in the section opener against Penn Hills on March 26.

“It was definitely good to start off the season right with a good win against a rival like Penn Hills,” he said.

“It wasn't the prettiest match, and we were a little sloppy at times, but the veterans and new guys really showed signs of playing well together.”

Larko said a 3-1 nonsection loss to Bethel Park two nights later was a good learning experience for his players.

“Bethel Park is always a challenge, and they are always competing for their section title,” Larko said.

“They have a very strong junior high program, and that feeds well to the high school team. They run a quick offense and play tough defense. They play very well together.

“We played well in three of the four games and kind of fell apart in the fourth game. Overall, I was happy with the way we played, and I saw some good things we can build on.”

Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at mlove@tribweb.com.

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