Serra Catholic volleyball takes the next step with section title
Everything the Serra Catholic girls volleyball team accomplished in the past few years was a stepping stone to Thursday night.
In 2008, the Eagles made it to the Class A playoffs for the first time and won a preliminary-round match against Union Area before losing a first-round game to top-seeded Bentworth. Last season, they tied North Catholic for a share of their first section championship, only to get swept out of the postseason in the first round by No. 10 seed Riverview.
This year, Serra Catholic continues to make its move up the food chain. With the Eagles' 3-1 victory against Vincentian on Thursday, they clinched the Section 2 title and their first outright championship in the program's eight-year history.
“We set the goal of winning the section title last year, and we reached it. But this year, winning the outright section title, is a big step in the right direction for us,” coach Chad Farrington said. “I think the experience factor — we have five senior starters — has been a real help, and the leadership aspect of it has been huge as well.”
One thing that isn't huge is Serra Catholic's front line. No Eagles player reaches 6-foot, but they have a pair of starters who are close in 5-11 outside hitter Marlena Darr and 5-10 middle hitter Lindsay Muschar. This after the team lost 6-2 senior middle hitter Katie Pricener, a Division II prospect, in the summer to a torn ACL.
Even with the loss of one of the top players in the section, Serra Catholic (11-0) has been able to succeed. Part of that has to do with experience, but the players were helped by strengthening the nonsection and a tournament schedule that gave the Eagles a chance to see tougher competition.
“This year we played Shenango and Geibel out of section so that we were a little more prepared for what we might be facing come playoff time against these typical powerhouse teams,” Farrington said. “This way we were able to see what we need to improve on and get ready for the playoffs.”
That will only help as the Eagles prepare to face their toughest task to date. Although the team has accomplished most of its goals, there is one looming that it won't be able to achieve until at least Oct. 23: making it past the first round of the playoffs for the first time.
“That was one of the team goals going into the season, and we're still focused on the team goals, but that was just one of the goals we had coming into the season,” Farrington said. “They realize now that every game and every practice will lead them into what they want to do, and they don't lose sight of the big picture.”
Still, moving into the second round is just another step up the ladder. At some point, Serra Catholic would like to become an elite Class A programs like Greensburg Central Catholic, which is ranked No. 2 in the state in the latest Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association poll.
“Winning the section title and making the playoffs are just seasonal goals,” Farmington said. “As a coach, in the long term, you always want to push to win WPIALs and make the state playoffs and do well at states. But every season you just want to do better and improve and see how you can challenge the players.”
Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-664-9161 ext. 1977.