Deer Lakes volleyball in 'transition period'
Deer Lakes boys volleyball coach Rick Tatrn turns the big 4-0 this year, as in 40 seasons as leader of the Lancers' program.
Coincidentally, Deer Lakes is going through a period of change after graduating several standout players from its WPIAL Class AA runner-up team.
But Tatrn believes his team has enough talent to get by.
"We're in a little bit of a transition period," said Tatrn, the dean of WPIAL volleyball coaches. "We had a good winter. We need to develop a some maturity and confidence to have a competitive season."
Deer Lakes, which is ranked No. 7 in the state among Class AA schools by the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association, opened the season by advancing to the quarterfinals of the 16-team Norwin Tournament last weekend.
On Wednesday, the Lancers defeated Ford City, 3-2, in a Section 2-AA opener.
Deer Lakes is led by senior outside hitter Gus Brown and junior setter Jeremy Gaston.
Gaston earned All-WPIAL Class AA first-team honors after recording a team-leading 1,044 assists last season.
Brown finished third on his team with 183 kills and was named to the second team.
However, Deer Lakes has to fill two major holes left by the graduation of middle hitters Zak Roberts and Darin Van Horn. The duo combined for 841 of the team's 1,272 kills.
"We might be more outside-oriented than last year," Tatrn said.
In addition to finishing second in the WPIAL, Deer Lakes captured the Section 2-AA title with an 8-0 record and took third place at the state tournament.
» Ford City, the other local team in Class AA, is a first-year program.
The majority of its players are from Elderton, which had its own team last year, finishing 4-4 in Section 2-AA and qualifying for the WPIAL playoffs.
Elderton is closed this year, but the school will reopen in the fall.
Fox Chapel features Stanford recruit Dan Tublin, a 6-foot-8 outside hitter, and is ranked No. 4 in the state in Class AAA by Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association.
"I definitely feel we're in that caliber," Fox Chapel coach Phil O'Keefe said of the ranking. "There are several good teams in the WPIAL. North Allegheny is very strong, and Seneca Valley also is a top team. But I feel we can be up there if we keep working."
Fox Chapel started the season by losing to No. 7 Seneca Valley in the quarterfinals of the 16-team North Allegheny Tournament last weekend. The Foxes also lost to Seneca Valley on Monday.
Last season, the Foxes placed third in Section 2-AAA with a 9-3 record and advanced to the WPIAL quarterfinals. Tublin was named to the All-WPIAL Class AAA first team.
» Plum was 6-6 and took fourth in Section 3-AAA and also made it to the WPIAL quarterfinals last season.
The Mustangs are looking for new leaders after graduating two All-WPIAL players.