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Peters Township set up for volleyball success

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Michael Love | Tribune-Review
Peters Township middle blocker Xander Browell competes at the Plum Invitational on Saturday, April 26, 2014.

WPIAL volleyball standings

Class AAA

Section 1: Bethel Park (8-0)*, Peters Township (7-2)*, Upper St. Clair (7-2)*, Canon-McMillan (4-4), Baldwin (3-6), Moon (1-7), Central Catholic (0-9)

Section 2: North Allegheny (8-0)*, Butler (7-2)*, Fox Chapel (7-2)*, Seneca Valley (5-3)*, Shaler (2-7), Pine-Richland (1-7), North Hills (0-9)

Section 3: Norwin (8-0)*, Latrobe (7-1)*, Penn-Trafford (7-2)*, Plum (4-4), Gateway (2-7), Penn Hills (1-7), Hempfield (0-8)

Class AA

Section 1: Ambridge (5-0)*, Beaver County Christian (4 -2)*, OLSH (3-3)*, Montour (2-4), Hopewell (0-5)

Section 2: Derry (5-0)*, Deer Lakes (4-2)*, West Shamokin (3-2)*, Summit (1-4), Ford City (0-5)

Section 3: Keystone Oaks (6-1)*, Thomas Jefferson (6- 1)*, Steel Valley (5-2)*, Seton-La Salle (3-4), Trinity (1-6), South Park (0-7)

*Clinched playoff berth

Top high school sports
By Justin Criado
Sunday, April 27, 2014, 10:09 p.m.

Peters Township boys volleyball coach Chris Kelly knows his squad isn't like Bethel Park or North Allegheny — two perennial powerhouses in Class AAA — but pedigree doesn't matter during the postseason.

“Once you get there, anything could happen,” Kelly said.

Last year, Peters Township won the first postseason game in program history, defeating Pine-Richland, 3-2, at home.

Looking to build on last season's success, Peters Township (8-2, 7-2) is locked in second place in Section 1-AAA, behind Bethel Park.

“We look at Bethel Park as kind of the gauge,” Kelly said. “It's good to play against that team because those are the kind of teams that we're going to see in the playoffs.”

The Indians dropped both matches against the Hawks this year, taking only one game in Thursday's 3-1 defeat.

For senior captain Christian Fink, it's easy to get frustrated after such losses, but he knows what's most important lies ahead.

“They beat us twice, but we need to look past that and focus on the rest of our games,” Fink said. “Our goal is to win a second playoff game this year.”

Other than Fink, fellow captain Xander Browell and seniors Aaron Ranallo and Matt Naky have helped stabilize a Peters Township squad that lost three hitters to graduation and struggled offensively earlier this year.

“These guys have really taken that leadership role to heart, and they do a really great job,” Kelly said. “I knew that defensively we were going to be pretty strong, and we have been.

“It's really our offense that has kind of taken a while to come around. That's what we lost last year.”

Kelly credits players Nathan Young and Jordan Ranallo for stepping up in more prominent varsity roles this season.

With senior setter Shawn McNally on vacation for two weeks, sophomore Jordan Ranallo has filled in after starting the season on the back line.

“I wasn't too nervous coming in,” Jordan Ranallo said. “It's kind of fun playing on a team when I'm younger than most of (my teammates).”

What's also fun for the Indians is achieving what no other Peters Township team has done before, and what that means now is winning in the playoffs.

“We finally cracked that first goal and won a playoff game, and the guys want more this year,” Kelly said. “They want to win a playoff game, and then they want to win the next one. I think that would put us in the final four of the WPIAL.”

Peters Township, which lost to eventual tournament champion Derry in the quarterfinals of the Plum Invitational on Saturday, returns to action Monday against section foe Upper St. Clair, which the Indians defeated 3-1 earlier this season.

Peters Township can only finish as high as second in the section, which may warrant a higher playoff seed and a possible home playoff game.

“That would be a really big step up for us,” Jordan Ranallo said of the team's chances of winning out. “It's going to be really exciting if we could pull that out.”

Justin Criado is a freelance writer.

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