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Gateway girls volleyball gunning for playoff spot under new head coach

| Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The Gateway varsity girls volleyball team finished 4-8 in Section 4-AAA last season, and a 3-1 loss to McKeesport in the section finale put the Gators fifth in the team standings behind Penn Hills (5-7).

First-year head coach Greg Lockley, who comes to the program after five years as the girls head coach at West Mifflin, said there is the talent and the dedication to turn around the fortunes of the team and challenge for a playoff spot in 2014.

“We scrimmaged against Plum, Penn-Trafford and Knoch (last week), and I saw some really good things,” Lockley said.

“We started out a little sluggish against Penn-Trafford, but they started to buy into what we are trying to do. All of the hard work they were putting in over the summer and during the practices in camp was starting to pay off on the court. They started to see that they are capable of competing against all the other teams.”

A core of returning players will lead the Gators into battle.

Those back after seeing varsity time last year are seniors Julia Bauccio and Emily Perry and juniors Lauren Bolen, Nicole Kocis, Sydney Stevens and Angela Toner.

“We're excited for the season to start,” Stevens said. “We are very confident as a team and confident in each other. The scrimmage showed we have a chance to win if we trust in each other.”

Stevens is expected to be the starting libero this season.

“She's getting more and more comfortable with that role,” Lockley said.

“We have her doing some things she's not used to doing, but she's playing well.”

Lockley said a lot of the players can play more than one position, and that will enable the team to do a number of different things on the court.

“We have a nice mix to work with,” he said.

Bauccio said she sees that the players are more of a team this year.

“We work together well, and communication is so important on the court,” she said.

Lockley said athleticism will be a key part of the game plan this season.

“Our height isn't as great as most teams, but our athletes get off the ground pretty well, whether that's to set up a block or to hit. It allows us to play better defense in the back row,” he said.

“We should be solid in the front row, and I expect us to be a defensive-minded team.”

Lockley said that team-building off the court is important to building a strong team on the court.

The team, he said, enjoyed themselves on a trip to the zoo after a practice last week.

“It was a great experience for everyone,” Lockley said. “Things like that really help with the bonding process.”

“They are learning to trust not only me more but each other more. All of the returning players have been great in embracing the new players and are really showing their leadership. They understand what they need to do to be successful.”

Shaler was the class of the section last year. The Titans went 12-0 and advanced to the semifinals of the WPIAL playoffs before falling to Bethel Park.

Oakland Catholic (10-2) and Plum (8-4) were the other two playoff teams.

Those three are expected to be high in the hunt for a playoff spot again.

Fox Chapel, which missed the playoffs last year in Section 3 but often has found itself a WPIAL playoff qualifier, returns to the section this season.

“Age or grade doesn't matter on this team,” Stevens said.

“We all have the same goals. There's been a lot of healthy competition. We push each other. We have a chance to show everyone what Gateway volleyball's all about and what we can do this season.”

Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825, at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.

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