Inspired Seton Hill women’s volleyball team earns YWCA award
The word special will forever be etched into the 2018 women’s volleyball season at Seton Hill.
The Griffins endured tough times but rose to the occasion, turning hardship into motivation, to string together their best season — one thrilling match at a time.
They played with reverance and resolve for the late Maggie Murray, a Seton Hill graduate who died tragically early in the season. The news shook the team but also inspired them.
Murray was part of an incredible run, the team vows, so she will remembered fondly again Monday night along with her former teammates and coaches when Seton Hill receives the Women’s Sports Team of the Year at the YWCA Westmoreland County Sportswomen of the Year Awards Banquet.
The event begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Ramada Inn, Greensburg.
“Everywhere we played, everywhere we went, there was a quiet confidence within our group,” Griffins coach Rick Hall said. “This team understood that if they played to have fun and to their abilities they would give us a chance to win every time.
“The belief and confidence the people involved in the program had collectively was a wonderful thing to watch evolve.”
The season was dedicated to Murray, who was killed in a boating accident in Florida in September 2018. She was 22.
Seton Hill defeated visiting Cal (Pa.) in their emotional next match, the energy palpable at a packed McKenna Center.
In some ways, a tragedy reshaped their season as the team played with what Hall called “Maggie Magic.”
The team played in Erie the following weekend and attended a memorial service for Murray, an Erie native. The Griffins won eight of nine matches to finish the regular season and clinched the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference title.
“Our team started playing for more than just a ring,” said Leah Bisignani, a redshirt junior middle hitter on the team. “We were playing for each other and we were honoring one of our best friends, Mags.”
Wait, there is more.
Seton Hill won its PSAC playoff opener, upset Shippensburg in the semifinals and overcame an early deficit to knock off Gannon to claim the first conference title in program history.
After a win over Cal in the NCAA Atlantic Regional, they rallied past Gannon again to reach the regional finals, where they lost to Wheeling Jesuit in five sets.
What a run.
Twenty-six wins, nine losses and one heartbeat.
“We could definitely feel her there with us each and every game,” Bisignani said of Murray. “And I think we are all going to remember for the rest of our lives how we made history at Seton Hill.”
Hall, who earned AVCA regional coach of the year, said he will have a special place in the mantle for this group. Seton Hill sophomore Viktoria Farian earned PSAC Athlete of the Year.
“All of the winning aside, even if we had a mediocre season, these girls would still be able to see the bigger picture,” Hall said. “The one that we all played for this year, and that is our friend, Maggie Murray.”
Committee’s Choice Award: Eddy Confer (cycling), Ligonier Valley YMCA — A longtime athlete, Confer has overcome numerous surgeries and physical setbacks to compete in triathlons.
Committee’s Choice Award: Saint Vincent College women’s golf team — SVC won the PAC title for the first time and played in the NCAA Division III Tournament in Florida where they finished 24th.
Sports Girl of the Year, Excellence in a Team Sport: Morgan Phillips (basketball and volleyball), Mary Queen of Apostles School — An eighth grader, Phillips is an up-and-coming basketball and volleyball player. She helped lead her team to a national title.
Sports Teen with Special Needs: Brooke Hildenbrand (baseball, soccer), Yough — A multi-sport athlete, Hildenbrand is a senior who also competes in track, bowling, basketball and gymnastics.
Sports Teen of the Year, Individual Excellence: Rebeccah Pyo (track and field), Hempfield — A WPIAL Class AAA champion in the high jump and placed seventh in the state.
Sports Teen of the Year, Excellence in a Team Sport: Lauren Enos (volleyball), Derry — A 4.0 student, Enos is a defensive standout who will continue her volleyball career at IUP.
Sports Teen Team of the Year: Hempfield softball — The Spartans won their fourth straight WPIAL championship and an unprecedented third consecutive PIAA title last season.
Sportswoman of the Year, Excellence in a Team Sport: Kaylea Flick (volleyball), Penn State New Kensington — A second-year student, Flick is the first player in program history to earn All-American recognition. She finished last season fifth in the USCAA in kills per set.
Sportswoman of the Year, Individual Excellence: Chelsi Bartlow (cross country), Westmoreland County Community College — A second-year runner for the Wolfpack, she was the team’s top finisher in four meets and won Western Pennsylvania Collegiate Conference and National Junior College Athletic Association Region XX championships.
Women’s Coach of the Year: Becky Blasco (cheerleading), Derry — Blasco helped guide the Trojans squad to a runner-up at the WPIAL championships in her first season.
Women’s Health & Fitness Award: Sue Waldrop (triathlon) — Waldrop formed a women’s triathlon team in 2004 and added a men’s team five years later. She participated in more than 90 triathlons (biking, running, swimming) and qualified for the Ironman World Championships.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .