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Plum boys volleyball aiming for Section 3 season sweep of Greater Latrobe

| Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Michael Love | Plum Advance Leader
Plum varsity boys volleyball team members, from left, Matt Shepherd, Bryan Parker, Dan Szurley and Joe Pavia are gearing up for the annual Plum Invitational on Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Plum High School.

A lot in Section 3-AAA and for the WPIAL playoffs will be on the line Thursday evening as the Plum varsity boys volleyball team hosts Greater Latrobe at 7:30 p.m. at Plum High School.

The Mustangs are riding a three-game winning streak in section play — with wins over Hempfield, Gateway and Penn Hills — and are 5-2 in section with five games remaining.

Four teams qualify for the playoffs from Section 3, and Plum hopes to stay up in the standings with Norwin and Penn-Trafford, the two teams that upended the Mustangs in the first cycle.

Plum topped Latrobe, 3-2, in the first meeting on April 2, and Larko wants his team to build more momentum heading into the rematches at Penn-Trafford on Tuesday and at home with Norwin on May 1.

“Latrobe always plays us tough,” Larko said.

“We split two competitive matches last year, and it was a good five-set battle (earlier this season). Even without their top setter, they are competitive. Their one middle went down with an injury in the third game (of the first match), but they have kids capable of playing, and they expect that player to be back. If we don't come ready to play and come out strong, we're not going to be able to win it.”

Junior defensive specialist Brenden Grande returned to practice on April 15 after missing the first part of the season with an injury. However, he suffered a sprained ankle in that practice, and his return to the lineup was delayed.

“Hopefully, we will get him back soon, maybe this week,” Larko said.

“There is a lot of competition in the back row. He will add to that competition and push everyone to improve.”

A tradition continues Saturday as the Plum varsity boys volleyball team hosts its annual invitational tournament at Plum High School.

Sixteen teams will take part in the tournament, which begins at 8:30 a.m. with the first round of pool play.

There will be four pools of four teams, and each team will play two games to 21 against the other teams in the pool.

The teams will be reorganized for the second round of pool play, and the top eight teams after pool play will be in the Gold Bracket playoffs for a shot at the title.

The remaining eight teams will face off in the Silver Bracket.

“It's a big tournament and is always competitive,” Larko said. “It's nice to not have to wake up and catch a bus at 6:30 in the morning. The kids are excited for it, and they want to put on a good performance.”

Plum is playing in its fourth and final tournament of the season. It has tournament experience at North Allegheny, Derry and Fox Chapel.

Norwin is the defending Plum Invitational champion. The Knights beat Bethel Park in the one-game title match last year.

Plum beat Montour in the quarterfinals of the Gold Bracket last year before falling to Norwin in the semifinals.

Norwin, Bethel Park and Montour are back for this year's tournament, and they will be joined by Penn-Trafford, Fox Chapel, Derry, Deer Lakes, Peters Township, Pine-Richland, Allderdice, Farrell (District 10-AA), Pittsburgh Central Catholic, Baldwin, Shaler and Butler.

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

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