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Connellsville volleyball team expects to play at high level

| Monday, Sept. 9, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Evan R. Sanders | Daily Courier
Isabella Sigado and Connellsville are 1-1 on the season, losing to Upper St. Clair but defeating Kiski Area in two matches last week.

It's early in the high school volleyball season, but Connellsville has shown resolve.

The Falcons opened play Tuesday with a 3-0 loss to Section 2-AAA rival Upper St. Clair. But Connellsville came back the next night and knocked off Kiski Area, 3-0, in a nonsection contest.

For first-year coach Casey O'Brien, getting the win one night after a loss was a good sign. But results aside, O'Brien liked the way his team got down to business after dropping its section opener.

“From the first game to the second game, they looked so much more comfortable,” O'Brien said. “It was unfortunate that our first game was a section game because we looked so uncomfortable. But I saw flashes of what we are trying to do.”

What the Falcons can do is put a lot of talent on the floor.

“I've been coaching a long time, and I really like this team's depth,” O'Brien said. “From top to bottom, they are pretty good at volleyball.”

O'Brien noted that the mental side of the game is still a work in progress, but progress is being made.

Connellsville's offensive philosophy is to attack, and leading that charge will be senior outside hitter Maria Merendino.

“We rely a lot on Maria in our offensive structure,” O'Brien said. “As an outside hitter, she fits that role.”

Complementing Merendino at the net will be senior middle hitter Isabella Sigado. Merendino and Sigado will try to hammer down the points up front, and the job of giving them those opportunities will fall to junior setter Emily Means.

“We want to deliver a consistent ball so that we can set a strong tempo,” O'Brien said.

Having a strong, steady offense will be important for the Falcons, but defense also will be a critical component. Several players are emerging as defensive specialists, including seniors Emma Bell, Melissa Kirby and Lynnsy Leonard.

While many veterans dot Connellsville's roster, O'Brien is also optimistic about the future of the program thanks to the influx of young talent.

“We have a core of young kids coming up, and I think Connellsville volleyball is going to be in good shape for the next four years,” O'Brien said.

As a new coach, O'Brien is trying to set a winning tone. With that in mind, goals are always high.

“Any team that I coach, I want to set the biggest goal possible and see how close we come,” O'Brien said. “The highest honor in our sport is a state championship.”

Connellsville missed the playoffs last year, so making a return to the postseason is an obvious goal.

“We made the playoffs my sophomore year,” Sigado said. “I'd like to see that happen again my senior year. Our practices have to be competitive, and we can't play down to another team's level. To be competitive, we just have to play to our abilities.”

Connellsville hosts Peters Township in a section game Monday.

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

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