Mt. Lebo volleyball squad shooting for state title
Most teams like to say its goal is to win the state championship, but the Mt. Lebanon girls volleyball team truly means it.
The reigning WPIAL and PIAA champions in Class AAA would consider it a failure if they don't win another pair of gold medals with four starters, including two all-state players, and a host of other experienced players returning this season.
'We met as a team in our first practice in preseason and outlined what our goals are, it was just a given to be WPIAL and State champions,' said coach Brian Begor, who has taken over the team this preseason for his wife, Dawn, who is caring for her new-born baby girl, Flynn, and will coach the junior varsity this season. 'You don't realize what tremendous risk it is to say that, if we don't win WPIAL and states we've failed.
'I think a lot of teams would say we'd like to win the state championship, but I don't know how many would say we fail if that doesn't happen. That takes tremendous courage but this is a remarkable group of girls.'
This group has played has only known success. The Blue Devils have played in four-straight PIAA title games, including a victory in 1997, and four-straight WPIAL title games, only losing to Greensburg Salem in 1988.
'Tradition is everything,' Begor said. 'If you have a good team that makes for a good season, but good tradition makes for a good program. Every year, we lose all-state players and every year we have new state players, that's what tradition does.'
The change in head coaches shouldn't make a difference, considering Brian coaches most of Mt. Lebanon's players for several years at the Nike Penn Juniors volleyball club he runs. The change is expected to be made official soon and Dawn plans return to coaching next season.
'I've coached nearly all of them for a lot of years,' said Brian, a former Division I college assistant. 'I'm certainly familiar with them and they are familiar with me. I haven't seen any transition from my wife to me.'
The Blue Devils will be led by all-state selections outside hitter Kaleena Walters, a Penn State recruit, and setter Amy Brown. Outside hitter Rebecca Kastein, middle blocker Rebecca Gawronski, Laura Drozynski and Katherine Graziano round out the starting lineup.
'I've never been around a more remarkable of people,' Brian said. 'If they owned a business it would be a Fortune 500 company. They are as driven and as mentally tough as anyone you can come across.'
South Park, one of the favorites in Class AA, also has a solid team coming back behind second-year coach John Pastorius. The Eagles only lose All-State player Ashley Macko, now at Duquesne, to graduation.
'Macko was a fantastic player, but we have our starting six and people on the bench that could really help us out and take us as far,' Pastorius said. 'We will probably be a more solid team this year. Ashley was so dominant, she got the lion share of hits on offense. This year, we have five hitters who can hit the ball at any time and put the ball down.'
Senior outside hitter Anne Reynolds is the Eagles' best ball striker. She will be aided by outside hitter Katie Polaski, sophomore middle hitter Amanda Smider, weakside hitter Brittany Musiol, middle hitter Lindsey Averill, outside hitter Stacey Rhoades and setter Lisa Samolovich.