Seton-La Salle volleyball strives to repeat as section titlist
Kevin Hummert, veteran head coach of the Seton-La Salle girls' volleyball team, greeted three returning starters to the lineup at the start of preseason practice earlier this week.
The Lady Rebels will be led by seniors Laura Nath, Morgan Henderson and Sommer Waskiewicz, along with junior Michelle Sanders, at the season's onset.
Nath, a 5-foot-9 middle/right-side hitter; and Sanders, a 5-9 setter; are team captains. Henderson is a 6-2 middle hitter; while Waskiewicz is a 5-4 defensive specialist/setter.
Nath, Henderson and Sanders, who led the team in assists last year, are returning starters and the only returning varsity letterwinners.
“Laura Nath, Morgan Henderson and Michelle Sanders should be our top contributors because of the nature of their positions,” said Hummert, Seton's third-year head coach who formerly was head coach of the Shenango girls' volleyball team. “But this season's team could be one of the deeper squads I've had, so I see a number of players making significant contributions.”
There are four juniors on the Lady Rebels' 2014 squad, consisting of Sanders, Nicole Colligan, a middle hitter; Jillian Gisoni, a libero; and Michaela Mahoney, a defensive specialist.
“The strengths of this year's team revolve around our attacking and blocking ability,” Hummert said. “We have decent size, and Michelle Sanders, our setter, is rapidly developing into a talented court player and leader, while at the same time is developing a good timing relationship with her hitters.
“Like most high school girls' volleyball teams, our serve-receive and ball control will be the main keys to our success. If the team passes with relative success, I believe our offense will allow us to compete with most teams in Double A.”
Seton-La Salle won a section championship with a 10-0 record last season, and finished 15-5 overall.
The Lady Rebels were trailed by South Fayette (7-3) and South Park (7-3), who tied for second place; Keystone Oaks (4-6), East Allegheny (2-8) and Steel Valley (0-10) in the final section standings.
Nine girls saw significant playing time last season; all nine were named to the Section 6-AA all-star squad.
Lindsey Farley (L) Julianna Ross (DS); Toni Torchia (OH) and Tia Torchia (OH) were named to the first-team.
Brianne Colligan (MH), Nath (RS) and Sanders (S) earned second-team selections; Shelby Williams (S) and Henderson (MH) landed third-team berths.
“Even though the team graduated six seniors — all were starters at some point throughout the season — the expectation does not change,” Hummert said. “We will strive to win our section and make a deep run in the playoffs. The goal remains the same as every year, which is to win the section and challenge for a WPIAL title, but that is going to take a tremendous amount of dedication to improvements in all facets of the game.
“(We) just finished a 12-team summer league at Greentree, comprised of mainly Triple-A teams, and finished second to Seneca Valley, so I believe there is the potential to achieve our team goals. The potential does exist to have just as successful a season as we experienced last year.”
Another reason for Hummert's early optimism was the performance of the Lady Rebels' junior varsity squad in 2013.
The younger Seton-La Salle girls posted a 16-2 overall record last season.
Leading underclassmen on this year's team include sophomores Emily Gruendl (S/DS), Megan Manion (OH/MH), Jamie Neary (MH/RS) and Nicole Reyes (RS/OH); plus freshmen Ellie Grefenstette (MH/RS), Bridget Hart (MH/RS), Mariah Lomire (L/DS) and Alyssa Eicker (DS).
Seton-La Salle is a member of Section 6-AA again this season, along with holdovers East Allegheny, Keystone Oaks, South Fayette and Steel Valley.
Four other teams — Thomas Jefferson, South Fayette, West Mifflin and South Allegheny — have been added to the mix this year.
“I believe it will come down to a race between Thomas Jefferson, South Fayette and Seton-La Salle,” Hummert said. “Based on what I saw last season, and what teams have returning to their lineups, Thomas Jefferson and South Fayette, along with us, should compete for the section title. Our section has been realigned and we now have Thomas Jefferson (in the section), and they usually are one of the top 10 teams in the WPIAL every year. Also, Keystone Oaks always has a competitive team so they could be in the mix. I would be surprised to see a team go undefeated in our section this season.”
“With regard to section realignment, I would have rather seen the sections aligned differently. I think our section became a lot stronger, whereas others became significantly weaker.”
Seton-La Salle's nonsection schedule is highlighted by matches against defending WPIAL champions Freeport (Class AA) and Bishop Canevin (Class A).
The Lady Rebels also will play Indiana, last year's WPIAL Class AA runner-up; and three other WPIAL playoff teams in 2013 in Beaver, Quaker Valley and Avonworth.
The Lady Rebels participated in a summer camp at Ft. LeBeouf last week.
Ray Fisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5820 or firstname.lastname@example.org.