Unity key to Leechburg's success
If you happen to pass the Leechburg volleyball team's bus after a road win, you might be inclined to turn down your radio just to hear the tunes coming from the bouncing vehicle.
“Almost all of the girls are involved in chorus,” senior player Gina Peterman said. “We'll sing mostly oldies or chorus songs; it gets pretty rowdy sometimes.”
The Blue Devils have had a lot to sing about in recent years as they've made the Class A playoffs every year since 2000.
The team is making noise again. This year's squad is 9-2 overall — 8-1 in Section 1-A — and has its goals set high.
“We're hoping to win the section,” Peterman said. “I also think we can do as well in the playoffs as we did last year.”
Leechburg defeated Bishop Canevin in the first round of the playoffs before losing to Farrell in the second round in 2004.
Peterman is one of eight seniors on the 15-member team who have been playing together since seventh grade. That's when coach Ellen Toy was the girls' physical education teacher and encouraged a lot of the players to try out. Consequently, the team has grown extremely close because of their similar interests.
“We're all really close,” Peterman said.
Toy is pleased that the girls have such close friendships, because it helps them succeed on the court, as well.
“The team unity carries over onto the court, and their uniqueness makes them play so well together,” Toy said. “They know each other's good points and trigger points, and they're good at making sure everyone's on the same page.
” Peterman believes that their unity was not only forged by their close friendships but by the encouragement of their coach, as well.
“She emphasizes teamwork and getting along with the players a lot, in addition to the offensive and defensive aspects of the game,” Peterman said.
Toy places such an emphasis on teamwork that she has not named an individual captain. Instead, she places the responsibility on the seniors, describing them as “the nucleus and knowing what to say at the right time.”
“Losing them is going to be hard,” Toy said. “They've been such mentors to the younger players.” Toy is extremely confident with the development of all her players and feels privileged to have the dedicated workers that she does.
“I think it's their mind-set; they give it their all,” Toy said. “They walk into the gym and make it happen; that's something that coaches strive for.”
And as long as Leechburg continues to work, the oldies will continue to be heard.