Despite tough times, Latrobe volleyball advanced to postseason
Latrobe, sporting a full roster just in time for the postseason, was hoping to make an impressive showing in the WPIAL boys volleyball playoffs beginning Tuesday.
The Wildcats entered the year with high expectations but struggled through tough times, losing two players to injuries and another to a nearly season-long suspension.
Despite the obstacles, they overcame a shaky 2-3 start and surged to an 8-5 record with a patchwork lineup.
“We have a very talented team. We weathered a bunch of storms early in the season,” coach Drew Vosefski said.
Latrobe entered the WPIAL postseason as the fourth-place team from Section 3-AAA with a 7-5 mark.
“There's always an attitude in the gym to win games,” said senior Joe Wojciechowski, a 6-foot-3 middle/outside hitter who missed time early in the year with a severely sprained ankle. “With every new player that comes out to the team, from Day 1, the attitude is instilled in them to win games, and there's nothing else to do there but win games.”
Latrobe senior libero Alex Rutigliano also had to overcome a stress fracture in his foot, which worsened as the season wore on.
“It had gotten to the point with Alex where he couldn't keep up his efforts, and he had to stop playing and wear a boot for about a week,” Vosefski said.
“Both of those injuries happened at the same time. When you take away two senior leaders, you tend to have to shake up your lineup. We went through six different lineup changes, but we had some guys who stepped up and played the game at a high level.”
Among them is little-used junior center Robert Gunther, who entered the varsity lineup as a starter for the first time in his high school career when 6-foot-4 senior Adam Kniffen was required to miss much of the year on a suspension handed down by the Latrobe administration.
Kniffen and Wojciechowski, both committed to play at St. Francis (Pa.), form a potent duo for Latrobe.
Vosefski said Gunther had help from the team's relief corps while the major players were sidelined, led by a pair of versatile players in 6-1 junior T.J. Green and 6-0 sophomore Vince Bonar.
“They both played great defense for us,” Vosefski said. “T.J. is just so versatile. He could play any position for us, if needed.”
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.