Penn-Trafford volleyball sets sights high
The Penn-Trafford girls volleyball team had a successful 2013 season, qualifying for the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs for the eighth straight season and winning a first-round playoff match after failing to do so in 2012.
Still, entering this season, the Warriors want more.
Penn-Trafford will kick off its 2014 campaign this weekend vying for its third section championship in the past four seasons and a deep playoff run. Last season, the Warriors finished second in section play behind Norwin and bowed out in the WPIAL quarterfinals against Shaler.
“Coming second in the section is great, but it's not what we want,” senior outside hitter Angela Tarabrella said. “We want to come in first this year. As a team, we want to come down in history. We want to go further than we ever have in playoffs.”
Six players, all of whom saw playing time, graduated from last season's team. However, the Warriors return two starters in Tarabrella and fellow senior outside hitter Maria Palarino, as well as junior middle hitter Emma Mull, who played a significant role last season.
“We're going to have some new players, but I think I could tell even last year that we were going to be pretty good this year,” Penn-Trafford coach Jim Schall said. “We had some kids who didn't play much who are very good and are going to be able to step in and play pretty well this year.”
Penn-Trafford must replace setter Taylor Solo, a four-year starter. Senior Kelsey Roche will step into the lineup at setter, and Schall said she looked strong in preseason workouts.
With Mull, Palarino and Tarabrella returning at hitter, and senior Audra Ragan stepping into a more significant role on the front line, the Warriors' offense could be a team strength.
“I think (having returning hitters is) definitely a start,” Schall said. “You've got to pass the ball well, and Angela and Maria are good passers, too. Besides playing in the front row, they were two of our passers last year. I think we'll hit pretty well, and I think we'll pass pretty well, too. I think we'll be a pretty well-rounded team.”
On the back line, Schall said seniors Sarah McGowan and Katie Pierce and sophomore Meghan Marasti were competing for time as defensive specialists.
“I'd say right now there's competition for those spots,” he said. “But we have more kids who can play the whole way around the court, and we probably won't use five defensive specialists.”
Tarabrella said the Warriors' roster also includes some strong young players who should contribute to the team this season.
“I know when I was younger and had to play up, it made me push myself even more to play higher,” she said. “I know these younger players playing up on varsity have the skills and the level to play up on varsity and be able to help us out this year.”
Penn-Trafford will compete in Section 1-AAA with Connellsville, Franklin Regional, Kiski Area, Hempfield, Latrobe and Norwin. Connellsville, a playoff team in 2013, replaces Laurel Highlands, which finished in last place.
“We had probably six or seven years where (the section) wasn't really strong,” Schall said. “Last year, it was very good, especially at the top of the section. Three of us were in the final eight, and I think it will probably be stronger throughout (this year). I can't remember when it's been as good as this year.”
Penn-Trafford will kick off its season at the Mt. Lebanon Tournament on Saturday before opening section play at 7 p.m. Sept. 4 against Latrobe.