Shaler volleyball chasing 2nd straight WPIAL playoff berth

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Friday, April 27, 2018 | 1:21 AM


Sophomore libero Trapper Crain rattled off the key players from last year's Shaler boys volleyball team that ended a five-year WPIAL playoff drought without much thinking.

Without them, Crain figured, the Titans would have a long way to go to make a return trip. Shaler's roster features 15 sophomores and not as many upperclassmen.

“I thought we had a worse chance than last year,” Crain said. “We were freshmen last year. None of us really expected to be playing varsity this year.

“Our hopes weren't as high as they are now about making playoffs.”

But playing with a fast tempo and defensive mindset has Shaler in position to make the playoffs heading into the second half of Section 2-AAA play.

While the Titans (5-6, 4-4) had lost two in a row heading into a section match with Fox Chapel last Thursday, Shaler is in third place and in position to earn a playoff bid.

The Titans have done so by setting the tempo at a quick pace. Jon Ramsey, Billy Dadowski, Owen Freiss and Steve Hoffman have provided a solid attack.

“Our offense is set from our defense in serve receive,” Titans coach Paul Stadelman said. “If we get good passing, and we get good defense, we frustrate other teams. The speed at which we are starting to play the game is challenging for other teams to deal with.”

Playing at a quick pace was born out of necessity. The Titans don't have a lot of size up front.

“We have a lot of short people,” Crain said. “We only have one rotation out of the six where all of the front-row players are taller than 6-foot. That's shorter than the other teams. Going fast pace helps us keep in the games.”

Some of that feistiness helped against Penn-Trafford last Friday. The Titans battled back from conceding a seven-point lead in a second-set loss to drop the third set 25-23 during a 3-1 defeat. The Warriors have played in the past two WPIAL title games, winning in 2016.

“We played a complete game from start to finish,” Stadelman said. “There was a no-die attitude on our side. They never quit and worked hard from the start of that match to the last match.”

That's something Crain plans to pay attention to down the stretch. While the Titans are in good position, a second consecutive postseason trip isn't guaranteed.

“We want to make sure we are focused before every game on the task at hand and not overthink our abilities to beat a team or think we can't beat a team,” Crain said. “We want to be confident in a team and what we can do.”

Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.

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