Player absences not slowing Penn-Trafford volleyball
The Penn-Trafford volleyball team is learning that it takes a full team effort to win matches.
Already missing junior middle hitter Sam Kavel because of a back injury, the Warriors were dealt another blow last week when junior Jarod Zeckowski came down sick before a match against Hempfield on Thursday.
It didn't matter. Penn-Trafford won, 3-1, to move to 10-0 on the season and 7-0 in Section 3-AAA play. Reserves Alex Deutsch, Evan Frohlich and David Virshup stepped up big for the Warriors.
“A lot of the less-experienced guys have stepped up big-time with our team,” senior libero Ethan Gelpi said. “They really showed how strong of a team that we really are. It just shows us that even though some of our main people may be injured, we still stay strong together as a team.”
Penn-Trafford has been getting consistent play from all its contributors this season, which in large part has led to the team's unblemished record and its post as the No. 2 team in the WPIAL.
“I really didn't expect to be undefeated,” senior Jacob Byers said. “But now that we're here, I can definitely see us going pretty far.”
But the full notion of team play came up recently when Kavel — one of the team's “big guns,” according to coach Jim Schall — went down with a lingering back injury earlier this month. In his absence, senior setter Cameron Artz and hitters Byers, Jesse Paluzzi and Zeckowski have picked up much of the offensive slack.
“When (Kavel) went out, I wasn't sure how we would handle it,” Schall said. “But some other guys have really done well in his absence. Other guys who usually play are doing more than they usually do.”
Penn-Trafford picked up its biggest win of the season last week without Kavel in the lineup, dispatching section rival Norwin, 3-2. The teams came into the match undefeated in the section, and Norwin looked ready to continue that success when it won two of the first three sets.
But the Warriors responded, winning the final two sets to get the victory. The fifth and deciding set came down to a 17-15 final score.
“It's a big rivalry, and they've gotten the better of us (lately),” Schall said. “We've had some pretty good teams in recent years, too. It was a good win.”
In addition to Norwin, the Warriors have seen some of their other top Class AAA competition in nonsection matches and tournaments. Penn-Trafford played Upper St. Clair in a nonsection match and faced No. 1 North Allegheny, Bethel Park, Deer Lakes, Fox Chapel and Peters Township in tournaments.
Schall said North Allegheny — the defending WPIAL champion — got the better of his team in the Derry tournament and looks to be the favorite again but said some other teams below could catch the Tigers in the postseason.
“North Allegheny is a favorite, and I'd say you could probably take the next six or seven teams and there's not a ton of difference (between them),” Schall said. “I think it's going to come down to how you're playing going into the playoffs, and hopefully (we'll) have some good matches come playoff time.”
Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.