Penn-Trafford volleyball team shoots for playoff success
The Penn-Trafford girls volleyball team accomplished one of its usual goals during the 2012 season, winning its second straight Section 1-AAA title and advancing to the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs for the seventh consecutive season.
However, the Warriors' season ended shortly thereafter, as they were upset by Chartiers Valley in the first round of the postseason.
Penn-Trafford began fall practice Monday hoping for a better ending this season. The Warriors return several key players from last season's run.
“Winning the section is nice, but to me, advancing in the playoffs shows you're doing things well at the right time,” Penn-Trafford coach Jim Schall said. “It was a match that I thought we overall played pretty well. We just didn't win a few games last year. But those kids do return. They've been there, they've been in that situation. It's a long year, but I think when we get to that point, we expect to do well in those situations, too.”
The Warriors will benefit this season from a strong returning front line, as several key players return.
Senior setter Taylor Solo leads that group, but she's joined by senior hitters Deanna Coll, Alex Heiman and Stephanie Jones, as well as junior outside hitter Maria Palarino.
“(Solo's) been a full-time setter for pretty much her whole career,” Schall said. “This is her fourth year, and she's going to be one of the best setters around.
“... As far as our hitters, we probably have as many returning hitters as we've ever had.”
While hitting should be a team strength, Penn-Trafford will have to replace its experienced back row of Samantha McGuigan, Lauren McGuigan and Jen Antill, all of whom graduated after last season.
“We lost all the kids who pass (after) last year,” Schall said. “They're not back, so that will be a little bit of a question mark going into the year — who's going to fill those roles.”
Schall said many of the players spent the summer playing for volleyball clubs around Western Pennsylvania. The team also participated in open gyms and a summer league.
“Some kids have played a lot, and others not as much,” Schall said. “But I think we've made some progress, and we'll be playing with them starting (this) week.”
Penn-Trafford is scheduled to scrimmage Knoch and Plum Aug. 21 before beginning the regular season at the Mt. Lebanon tournament on Aug. 31. The Warriors' first section match is scheduled for Sept. 3 at Hempfield.
After the Warriors posted an 11-1 section record in 2012, they look to be the favorites again this season.
However, Schall said he expected a competitive race with section rivals Hempfield and Norwin, both of whom made the playoffs a season ago and return top talent this year.
“I think Hempfield and Norwin both will be very, very talented,” he said. “They both return a lot of people. Norwin has some good returning kids and some newcomers who are pretty good, and Hempfield has some kids that are juniors who have played since they were freshmen. They both will be tough to beat.
“We've done it the last few years, and I think it's good that the kids expect to win,” he added. “They're willing to work really hard to win, and I think that's a good position to be in.”