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Geibel volleyball team chases 20th consecutive playoff berth

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Jason Black | Daily Courier
Geibel's Haley Solan (front) waits for a chance to make a set while new assistant coach Julianne Speeney looks on during a practice on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013 at Geibel High School.

At a glance

• Rick Watkins is entering his 22nd season as coach of the Geibel volleyball team. He will be assisted by Julianne Speeney and Jim Caccimelio.

• The Gators open the season with a Sept. 3 home section match against Frazier.

Top high school sports
Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013, 1:11 a.m.

According to Geibel volleyball coach Rick Watkins, the players his team needs to put together another successful season are on the roster. The trick is to get them to believe.

“Everything we need to have a good team is here,” Watkins said. “Our whole need for advancement lies nowhere but between our ears. We have to walk with an attitude, talk with an attitude and play with an attitude.”

Watkins pointed out that sometimes, the personality of this group of players can be a bit of a detriment.

“I love these kids because they are nice,” Watkins said. “But sometimes they are too nice. They haven't learned how to hate losing. I want us to be mad about losing. We're not there yet, but we're getting there and I feel good about this team.”

Under Watkins, Geibel has qualified for the WPIAL volleyball playoffs in each of the past 19 seasons, including last season. The Gators finished 8-5 and were tied for second in Section 5-A.

If the Gators are to make it 20 postseason appearances in a row, they will have to successfully fill the void left by graduates Emily Costantino (outside hitter), Peyton McIntyre (libero) and Toni Ardabell (outside hitter/middle hitter). Costantino was a All-WPIAL third-team selection last season.

“We're certainly having a tough time replacing Peyton's position,” Watkins said. “As good as Emily was, we have some girls that are ready to move into that position.”

Lone returning senior Rachel Elias will be one of the team's top outside hitters, with juniors Haley Thomas and Kaylee Ermine also playing on the outside.

Elias is excited about this team, especially considering the way the team played during the summer.

“I think that we've worked hard, and we've had good matches in our summer league,” Elias said.

“We're starting to get more aggressive, and we have better communication. We can always improve on our communication. There is always room for improvement.”

Communicating with the hitters will be juniors Haley Solan and Ashley Tomasko.

Look for junior Kylee Soberdash and sophomore Alyssa Hutchinson to play as middle hitters. Sophomore Morgan DeWitt and junior Laura Kozel are defensive specialists. Junior Brooke Core has the potential to play in front or back row positions.

“If our hitters and passers develop, I think we'll be OK,” Watkins said.

For the Gators, some big wins early in the season could set the tone for a successful campaign.

“I think all we need to do is get a couple of serious wins and confidence builders,” Watkins said. “I think then, we will have the attitude I'm looking for from them.”

Jason Black is the Local Sports Editor of the Daily Courier. He can be reached at

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