Confidence growing for Deer Lakes volleyball players

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Wednesday, May 2, 2018 | 10:39 PM


With the WPIAL boys volleyball playoffs right around the corner — the playing pairings are expected to be released May 14 — Deer Lakes players are competing with confidence.

“We know now we are capable of doing anything we put our minds to,” senior Devin Demase said. “We’re really excited. We feel we are really hitting our stride and playing well together. We’ll be ready to play whoever we get.”

With a pair of Section 2-AA games remaining — at home Thursday against Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic and at Mars next Tuesday — the Lancers hope to finish the regular season strong.

Deer Lakes swept past Obama Academy on Tuesday and kept up the momentum built after last week’s dramatic come-from-behind 3-2 victory over section rival Derry.

The Lancers fell behind 2-0 to the Trojans and were trailing 20-17 in Game 3 before they mounted an 8-1 rally to win the game, 25-21. Deer Lakes took Game 4 and outlasted Derry in Game 5, 18-16.

“That match (with Derry) was absolutely unbelievable,” senior right-side hitter Shane Yarussi said. “We kept our composure through all five games. We expected a tight matchup right off the bat. We came out slow, but our back row started doing good stuff and started to get it rolling. We started winning from there.”

“That third game, we woke up,” Demase said. “We said, ‘We cannot lose this game. We have to pull it out.’ We all played together and believed in each other. It was pretty awesome.”

Lancers coach Brady Schuller said the team gained a boost from the Derry victory, a measure of revenge from a 3-0 loss during the first cycle.

“We definitely came into practice a lot more energized after the Derry win,” Schuller said. “The practices now are more in the direction of getting into that playoff mentality.”

Deer Lakes and Derry are tied in the section standings at 7-1. Barring an upset, the Lancers and Trojans will share the section title.

“There’s a great chance we could see Derry again in the playoffs,” Schuller said. “They are a great team. We most likely will be on the same side of the bracket.”

Deer Lakes is No. 2 and Derry is No. 3 in this week’s Western Pennsylvania Boys Volleyball Coaches Association Class AA rankings.

“Knowing how good we can be and how hard we’ve worked, we’re confident we can beat anybody,” Demase said. “There will be a lot of great teams in the playoffs. It will be fun. We just have to make sure that whoever we play, we bring our best game.”

Last year, Deer Lakes was the No. 3 seed for the WPIAL playoffs and topped No. 2 Ambridge in the semifinals before falling to No. 1 Beaver County Christian in the finals.

The Lancers then beat District 6 champ Forest Hills in the PIAA first round before losing to District 10 champion Cochranton.

Deer Lakes is gunning for its first WPIAL championship since 2011 when Schuller, as a player, helped the Lancers capture their fourth title.

“I think this group is a little more mature in their approach to the playoffs compared to last year,” Schuller said. “Last year, they were a little awestruck that they were going into the playoffs as one of the favorites. After we beat Derry last week, one of the first things on everyone’s mind was that we knew we had to get better to win the title. We enjoyed the win, but then we refocused and got back to work.”

As much as championships are on the minds of the Deer Lakes players, they also have focused their energy to playing for senior teammate Trevor Sutch who is out for the season with a severe knee injury suffered on basketball senior night in February.

“It (stunk) seeing him get hurt like that,” Demase said. “We really felt for him. He knows that everything we do during the season is all for him. We know he would do anything to be out there with us, and that’s one thing that really drives us.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.

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