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Penn-Trafford boys volleyball looks to build off breakthrough year

| Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For the Penn-Trafford Star
Penn-Trafford volleyball coach Jim Schall talks to his players during a match against Norwin on May 9, 2013, at Penn-Trafford High School.

The Penn-Trafford boys volleyball team compiled a record-setting season in 2013. But the Warriors came agonizingly close to even more history.

Penn-Trafford advanced to the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals for the first time in school history last season before falling to eventual champion North Allegheny.

However, the Warriors also remember a pair of losses to rival Norwin that kept them from achieving even more. The first, a 3-2 defeat in the regular-season finale, denied Penn-Trafford its first section title. The second, a 3-2 setback in the WPIAL consolation match, kept the Warriors from qualifying for the PIAA playoffs for the first time.

“That was the worst part: our biggest rivals, losing to them,” senior middle hitter Sam Kavel said. “That hurt a lot.”

This season, the Warriors are attempting to continue last season's success and make a little bit of program history while they're at it.

“Last year was probably the best our team's ever done,” senior Dylan Paluzzi said. “Hopefully, we can just build on that and come out and get the section this year. We were so close last year, so hopefully we can get the job done.”

“We just want to be the first team to hang a banner on that wall,” Kavel added. “That's all we want.”

In order to accomplish its goals this season, Penn-Trafford will have to replace several key starters from last season's team. Setter Cameron Artz graduated, as did hitters Jacob Byers, Jesse Paluzzi and Tyler Wyckoff and defensive players Ethan Gelpi and Alex Zabelsky.

“We've just got to play as a team,” Dylan Paluzzi said. “We're not quite used to playing with each other yet. I know last year we had a lot of chemistry. We're probably not there with chemistry (yet) this year, but hopefully we can work on that. I feel once we play as a unit, I feel we can beat almost anybody.”

Sophomore Timmy Vecchio will step in for Artz at setter. Some of the other positions are up in the air because of an early wrist injury to junior hitter Alex Deutsch, Schall said, but he was hopeful Deutsch would be ready for the season.

Kavel, an all-WPIAL selection last season, will boost the Warriors' offense.

However, coach Jim Schall said he thought the team might be strongest on the defensive side of the ball.

“We have some good athletic guys,” he said. I think in the long run, our defense will be a strength for us. I usually count on having enough hitting to get by. You've got to play defense.”

Penn-Trafford began its season last weekend in the North Allegheny Tournament, and the Warriors opened section play at Hempfield on Tuesday night, past the deadline for this week's edition.

“Goal No. 1 would be to do a good job in the section and see what we can do,” Schall said.

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830, via email at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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