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Gateway girls volleyball team hoping to build on positives

| Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Gateway girls volleyball head coach Jay Wu admitted it's been a roller coaster ride for the program since the offseason.

As open gyms got going, Wu lost his assistant coach, Chris Napolitian, who got a teaching job and was no longer able to remain in the position.

That, Wu said, put the program in kind of a bind as the search for a new assistant commenced.

The search ended recently, as former Gateway girls volleyball player Jena Antonelli, a 2007 Gateway graduate, joined the Gators program as an assistant coach.

As a junior in 2005, Antonelli helped the Gators reached the playoffs, a feat the program wouldn't achieve until it returned to the postseason in 2011.

“She's still settling in and getting comfortable with things,” Wu said.

“She's brings a lot of knowledge to the program.”

Wu also said the team saw its ups and downs in a pair of preseason scrimmages.

“We have a lot of raw talent,” Wu said.

“But we're still learning to play together. As we do that, we're going to probably struggle a little bit. We're rebuilding, and the girls understand.”

Wu said several key seniors were lost from last year's team, including Allie Briley, who is a freshman on the Division II Wilmington College women's volleyball squad.

“We are a young team,” Wu said.

Wu said the team will improve with the help of veterans such as seniors Kayge Thomson and Gabriella Davis.

“Those two have been around my system the longest,” Wu said.

“Both Kayge and Gabby have played for me five out of their six years of playing at Gateway.”

Davis and Thomson are team captains this season along with another key returning player, junior Julia Bauccio.

“All three have really taken a step up in their leadership roles in directing the girls and leading out on the court,” Wu said.

“I am expecting really good things from them.”

Senior Rachel Beck, Wu said, is hoping to make an impact in her final varsity season.

Wu said Janette Kim is a junior who came back to this season a lot stronger.

“She should be a pretty good force for the varsity,” he said.

Junior Emily Perry is back at her setting position.

Wu said juniors Jenna Mangene and Maddie Hall still are growing their games.

Hall and Perry also are on the tennis team this season. The matches for the two sports are at different times, and, Wu said, he hopes everything can work out for them in their dual endeavors.

“I don't mind them splitting time (at tennis), as long as they give 100 percent here,” he said.

“I have had girls in the past do multiple sports. Shannon Dorr, a couple of years ago, was on the volleyball team and was also on the golf team. She balanced both well, and I know Maddie and Emily can do the same.”

Angela Toner saw significant playing time last year as a freshman, and, Wu said, most of the other seven sophomores on this year's roster saw playing time.

“The sophomore class is pretty strong,” Wu said.

“Most all of them went on to play club ball in the offseason. That helped them a lot. They came back a lot stronger, and they understand the game better.”

Wu said the seven-player freshman class came in stronger than any other freshman class he has had before.

“That is a testament to them,” Wu said. “Like I said before, they have a lot of raw talent. There are a couple of them who probably will be seeing varsity time.”

Freshman Emily Poach is on both the volleyball and cross country rosters, and the cross country meets also are at different times than the volleyball matches.

Wu said the section will be a challenge again.

“Shaler really didn't lose much,” Wu said. “I expect them to be top three again. Oakland Catholic always is a dominant force. Plum is young, but they have some tall players up front, and I expect them to be pretty darn good.

“For us, we might have some growing pains this year. I talked to Penn Hills' coach, Jay Mitlo, and he said they have growing pains as well. They should be decent. McKeesport went through some growing pains last year. I don't know how we will do, but I know we will fight and battle each match.”

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

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