Fox Chapel volleyball team taking shape as playoffs loom
With five talented sophomores playing prominent roles, the Fox Chapel boys volleyball team entered the week having won eight of its first nine Section 2-AAA games.
With five talented sophomores playing prominent roles, the Foxes also have displayed inconsistency indicative of their relative inexperience.
Coach Phil O'Keeffe can take comfort in the fact the former has resulted despite the latter.
“We're doing well,” O'Keeffe said. “We're up and down; we've played really well at times and sort of lackluster at other times. But we're starting to come out more and more and playing the way we need to as we head toward the playoffs.
“We have a very good amount of skill, even though we're relatively young.”
Setter Max DePellegrini, middle hitter Jaysen Zaleski and outside hitters Andrew Tublin, Matt Herrman and Ben DePellegrini are sophomores contributing to a Fox Chapel team that is headed to the WPIAL playoffs for the 10th consecutive season.
The Foxes have advanced to the WPIAL championship match three times during that span, most recently in 2010. The freshmen on that team are seniors now for the Foxes. Current Stanford University outside hitter Daniel Tublin was a senior in 2010 — now his brothers, Josh and Andrew, are standouts for Fox Chapel.
“The last time we got deep into the WPIAL playoffs — to the final — was my freshman year and Daniel was senior,” said Josh Tublin, a senior libero. “I remember him telling me after that, ‘You've got three more years.' If you're on another team that's this good, take advantage of it.'
“I think we're at that level now. It's kind of been a goal of mine and all the seniors around me to get back to the championship, so we know we have to show leadership. That kind of flows to the underclassmen, and you see that on the court.”
Tublin, an Ohio State recruit, joins setter Griffen Burke and outside hitter Matt Schrenk as seniors who start for the Foxes. Defensive specialists Steven Schwartz and Brian Boyd also are senior contributors.
“Josh is one of the best in the WPIAL since they instituted the libero rule,” O'Keeffe said. “He really embraced it and has taken it on... He's a very good passer to the point the guys around him back away when he comes to play a ball.
“He's passing fantastically, he's good on defense and he's getting better at reading the game. It's been fun to see him progress, and now to a big-time D-I level next year.”
Middle hitter Matt D'Amico, opposite Michael Eisner and outside hitters Darren DePellegrini and Roy Smith are juniors who contribute.
The Foxes are on track to finish with their best section record since they won the WPIAL and advanced to the PIAA championship match in 2006. They have won one postseason match over the past two seasons.
“Hopefully, we can put it all together,” Tublin said. “There's some youth on the team, and inconsistency comes along with that. But as the season progresses, we're becoming a more mature team. Hopefully, we will work together in the playoffs. We have what it takes to make a good run if we stay steady.”
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.