Thomas Jefferson girls volleyball team grabs Section 7-AA title, seeks WPIAL crown
Winning a section championship is quite an accomplishment, but for Thomas Jefferson's girls' volleyball team, it's nothing new.
Taking the WPIAL championship, however, would be an enormous achievement for the Lady Jaguars.
TJ locked up the Section 7-AA crown with a perfect 16-0 record this season, including a 12-0 mark in league play.
It is the ninth time in Ron Kelly's 12 years as the Lady Jaguars' head coach that his team has won a section title. But they've never won the WPIAL crown.
However, this very well could be the year the Thomas Jefferson girls.
“I definitely thought this would be one of the better teams I've had here, since I've been coaching at Thomas Jefferson,” Kelly said. “They're an athletic, experienced team. They're a good blocking and hitting team. I expected them to be in the mix. They've lived up to my expectations this season and have actually done better than I thought they would.
“I think we can compete for a WPIAL championship if we play our best.”
The WPIAL playoffs started earlier this week with preliminary round matchups.
Thomas Jefferson is scheduled to play 7:30 p.m. Thursday at home against the winner of the Ambridge-Kittanning match. Two other Class AA playoff teams, Central Valley and Uniontown, will clash Thursday at TJ at 6 p.m.
The LadyJaguars are led by a rotation of nine players that Kelly considers to be his starting lineup.
The rotation consists of senior Mariah Schrum, at setter; seniors Lexi German and Jessica Albrecht, at outside hitter; Renee Miller, a senior, Rachel Stover, a junior, and Kayla Smith, a sophomore, all at the middle hitter position; senior Katheryn Rotthoff and sophomore Natalie Miller, as back-row specialists; and junior Allie Yurkovich, at libero.
Kelly said the squad has two clearly defined goals: winning the WPIAL Class AA championship, and qualifying for the PIAA playoffs.
The Lady Jaguars will need to win at least two WPIAL playoff games to advance to the state playoffs.
Kelly added that there is plenty of confidence and excitement surrounding the program these days.
“It's really nice,” Kelly said. “I've been told by multiple people, ‘Oh, your team is doing well.' I've had players who played for me in the past come to some home matches, some of the boys on the football team have been there, coming to games.
“We played Elizabeth Forward for the section title (on Oct. 10), and the gym was pretty crowded, and the girls were getting a good reaction. That's a compliment to them.”
Brian Knavish is a freelance writer.