'Rebuilt' Bethel Park volleyball back on top of section
Perennial volleyball powerhouse Bethel Park is “rebuilding” this season, or so says coach Tom Allman.
The WPIAL runner-up a year ago, the Black Hawks lost nine seniors, including all-state hitter Grant Underwood, forcing Allman to adjust his approach this spring.
But anyone checking the bottom of the Section 1-AAA standings in hopes of a Bethel Park slide may be discouraged to find that the Black Hawks are actually at the top again with a perfect 10-0 record.
“We've had ups and downs all year. You can't just look at wins and losses,” Allman said.
Seniors Danny Burke, Lenny Chorney and Brandon Hanson have provided a strong nucleus, setting an example for the underclassman who have stepped up to fill varsity roles.
“I was just telling the guys that weren't ever in that situation to just be calm and do what you do in practice,” Chorney said. “It's more of (trying to) keep things rolling for the younger players.”
Allman juggled the lineup after a slow start, using a nine-player rotation while continuing to preach a team-first approach.
Juniors Steve Eiven and David Uhlman, along with sophomores Jake Dixon and Derek Miller, have filled gaps that were left by graduation, creating a new identity from last year's offense-minded squad.
“We had to almost redo our entire lineup with hitters,” Burke said.
“I think this year our defense is playing a much bigger role on the team than last year. Last year we had big hitters and big blockers, so we could really focus on that and our defense really wasn't as prominent.”
With a fourth straight section title in tow and less than a week left in the regular season, the Black Hawks look to the playoffs to leave their mark.
Burke referred to last year's tight championship game as evidence that the postseason is even more unpredictable.
“Don't take anything for granted in the playoffs. We went into that final with North Allegheny, and NA was the powerhouse and we took them to five (sets),” said Burke, who is the first player in program history to earn a letter and win the section title all four years of his career.
“No one thought Bethel Park could do that. It's the playoffs, and you don't know how people are going to play. You just have to play your heart out.”
Justin Criado is a freelance writer.