Hempfield volleyball looking to rebound from section losss

| Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

Dropping a pair of matches to its section rival is all the fuel the Hempfield volleyball team needed to kick start the second half of its season.

The Spartans were ousted earlier this year by Penn-Trafford in a pair of matches that coach Lindsay Turchetta thinks will serve as the catalyst for their playoff push.

“The thing that is really disturbing to me about those losses is that we didn't execute the way we had been working in practice,” she said. “I feel like we're more talented than we've played, but Penn-Trafford was able to play more as a team and with more consistency.”

Turchetta described the losses as “a blessing in disguise” and said they've used them in practice as indicators as where there are holes that need filled.

“I don't want to say that we needed those losses, but I think it showed us that you can lose any night,” Turchetta said. “When we won those two tournaments early in the year, we beat teams that beat Penn-Trafford.”

Entering the season, Turchetta said she believed her Spartans had turned the corner and were ready to compete for a WPIAL title. Not much has changed, noting that with more consistency and focus, they aren't far off.

The Spartans, who began the week 5-2 in Section 1-AAA, opened their season by entering three tournaments and winning two. Hempfield won the Canon-McMillan Tournament on Labor Day weekend and the Shaler Tournament a week later. Their first failed championship came at the hands of Bethel Park in the Upper St. Clair Tournament.

“I told the girls that very rarely do the Super Bowl champs get there undefeated,” she said. “We'll take a few bumps along the way, but it's how we play after the losses for the rest of the year that is going to matter most.”

The Spartans have gotten exceptional play from junior outside hitter Maddie Holmberg — a 2012 first team all-section selection — and her team-high 188 kills and 44 blocks. Junior Morgan DeFloria leads with 135 digs and is second with 135 kills.

Team captain and senior back-row specialist Juliana Lozaw has added 75 digs and senior middle hitter Jess Beal leads the team with 39 aces. Junior setter Lexi Irwin has a team-high 431 assists, while junior opposite Leah Knizner has added 107 digs.

“I think when we looked at what we expected early on, everyone has performed at the level that I was hoping,” Turchetta said. “I believe this group is playing a lot smarter, and I am highly optimistic in how they'll continue to play.”

The only worry Turchetta said she has at this point in the season is keeping the group focused on the task at hand which is defeating the team on the other side of the net. As a playoff spot is all but a given, she wants her players to act as if nothing is guaranteed.

“In preparing for the playoffs, I ask how we push to excel through the rest of the regular season games,” she said. “Now is when I want us to continue to play with the goal of holding teams under 10 points in a game and just focus on that team we're playing that night.”

Brian Graham is a freelance writer.

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