Penn-Trafford volleyball players fare well at junior nationals
Just qualifying for the 2013 USA Volleyball Girls' Junior National Championships was a major accomplishment for Taylor Solo and her club volleyball team.
Making Pennsylvania history at the tournament was just icing on the cake.
Solo, a rising senior at Penn-Trafford, competed at the national championships in Dallas, Texas, in late June and early July with her team, the Pittsburgh Elite Premier 17 squad. The team placed seventh in the 17 USA division at the tournament, winning four of its nine matches against some of the top squads in the country.
It was the best finish ever for a Pennsylvania team at the tournament. Pittsburgh Elite hadn't sent a team to nationals in more than 40 years.
“We were all so proud,” said Solo, the team's setter and captain. “Our coaches were so proud. Our whole entire club was just so happy we made it that far. It just shows that our training and everything finally paid off.”
Solo wasn't the only Penn-Trafford athlete to take part in the national junior championships. Four Penn-Trafford boys volleyball players — incoming freshman Brandon McGowan, rising junior Alex Deutsch and rising seniors Dylan Paluzzi and Sam Kavel — competed at the 2013 Boys' Junior National Championships in Reno, Nev., with their teams from the Pittsburgh Volleyball Club.
“It's amazing, the talent that's out there,” said Penn-Trafford volleyball coach Jim Schall, who coached Deutsch's team, the Pittsburgh 16-Yellow team. “I've gone the last (three years), and I think our guys do pretty well. But there's so many good players there.”
All teams included a mix of some of the top players from around the WPIAL.
McGowan's team, playing in the 14 Club division, had the best finish of any Penn-Trafford players at the junior national tournaments. The team, coached by North Allegheny's Dan Schall, won 10 of its 12 matches to finish in second place.
“They did quite well,” Jim Schall said. “The team they lost to in the finals — Southside, from Hawaii — that was the only team they lost to. ... They had a really good tournament.”
Deutsch's team won six of its 10 matches and finished in ninth place in the 16 Club division. Paluzzi's team finished in 13th place in the 17 Club division, while Kavel's placed 27th in the same division.
Many of the divisions included more than 50 or 60 teams. Teams had to advance from several pools of opponents in order to advance to the top tiers of the tournament.
“Every team was pretty much evenly matched — maybe slightly better,” Solo said. “Every single team there deserved to be there. There was no hiccups in the competition.”