Franklin Regional volleyball takes step forward
In coach Mike Foerene's mind, the 2013 Franklin Regional girls volleyball team established a foundation for seasons to come.
The challenge now becomes the next step.
The Panthers (6-8, 5-7) wrapped up their season earlier this month as the fourth-place team in Section 1-AAA, one spot out of the WPIAL playoffs. After three straight winless seasons, Feorene believes the Franklin Regional program is trending upward.
“To me, it was a great season,” Feorene said. “I thought we got a lot out of it. We got a lot of experience from the entire season. We've got a young group in there right now, and I've got great expectations for next year.”
After a four-match winning streak at midseason gave Franklin Regional a 5-3 record, the team faltered a little bit. The Panthers dropped section matches against playoff teams Penn-Trafford, Norwin and Hempfield and nonsection foe Fox Chapel before beating Laurel Highlands and falling to Kiski in the final week of the season.
“My expectations had changed a little bit of where I wanted to be and where I thought the team should end at,” Feorene said. “I felt very confident that we were a .500 team, and we were striving for that. We showed some highlights (against Kiski), and again we showed some lowlights. The inconsistencies were there.”
Feorene said the team's defense struggled in the second half of the season, particularly on the passing side.
An injury to setter Annie Painter also contributed to some of the problems, and Feorene said some old doubts may have crept up as well.
“I think they got into that ‘uh-oh' mode — here it comes again,” he said. “I think that's something that's going to cure itself over time.
“They're going to have to learn how to win big games. They've already learned how to win games. But now it's just how to win those big games — what to do in key situations, how to respond to losing one set and what to do to fix it. ... I think it all wraps up in more experience. We've got no place to go but to continue to go up.”
Franklin Regional will lose five seniors from this season's team, including Melissa Gustafson, Madison Heil, Meredith Kulak, Monica Merante and Andrea Reuther.
“They brought experience, not only during games but in practice situations,” Feorene said. “Your team develops along with every player on that team. There were seniors that played more than other seniors. But we had 24 players on our team, and every one of the five seniors that were out there — I needed everything out of them in every practice, and they gave me that.
“ ... I've got a ton of respect for them, and they brought a lot to the team this year.”
Offseason goals for Feorene include working with the team's setters. A switch to a two-setter system with Heil and Painter helped lead to the four-match winning streak, and Painter's injury hurt some of that success. Feorene said he would work with the younger setters to get them ready to play for next season.
Other goals include working with players who don't compete for club volleyball teams in open gyms.
Because of the team's success this season, along with layers from the junior varsity team ready to contribute next season, Feorene said the future looks strong.
“Hopefully, Franklin Regional is on the map and we're here to stay,” he said.