4 Quaker Valley volleyball players headed to national tournaments

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Sunday, April 16, 2023 | 11:01 AM


Quaker Valley’s girls volleyball program is receiving national attention.

Four members of the girls varsity team — Annica Kagle, Molly MacDonald, Vanessa Pickett and Nora Hammond — will be competing in the USA Volleyball Girls Junior National Championships this summer.

The tournament will take place June 28 to July 6 at McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago.

Kagle, a 5-foot-9 junior right-side hitter at QV, competes in the offseason for the Pittsburgh Elite Volleyball Association’s 17 Elite team, coached by Victor Morais.

“We have played very well as a team,” Kagle said. “We have a lot of positive energy and team chemistry on and off the court.”

The 17 Elite team took first place at the KRVA Champions Cup Tournament to qualify for the GJNC nationals.

“I am very excited to compete against the best teams in the country,” Kagle said. “We’ve worked hard for this opportunity. I hope for great success for our team.

“If we have time for sightseeing, I hope to visit Wrigley Field, eat some really good food and visit some of the museums. I am super excited for this experience with my team, and I am very excited for the future.”

As a sophomore at Quaker Valley, Kagle was a second-team all-section selection in volleyball.

Last fall, she was named all-WPIAL and first-team all-section. She also was selected to the PVCA all-state team in Class 2A and named to the MAC all-tournament team.

“After nationals, I’ll be very excited to begin my senior volleyball season at Quaker Valley,” said Kagle, a member of the National Honor Society. “I think we will have a great team after doing so well last year. We have a great group of girls coming back next season, and I am very excited for the future of QV volleyball.”

MacDonald, a 5-10 sophomore middle/outside hitter, plays for the PEVA 16 Premier team, coached by Baldwin and Pitt-Johnstown graduate Nikki Oakes.

MacDonald is a two-year varsity starter for the Quakers, who finished third in the WPIAL and fifth in the state in 2022.

MacDonald is an honor roll student with a 4.25 GPA and is enrolled in all honors classes. She was a third-team all-section selection.

The QV sophomore is listed as an outside hitter/right-side hitter for the 16 Premier team.

“Our team established that our main priority was to get a bid and go to Chicago,” MacDonald said. “We knew that getting a bid for USA Volleyball Girls 14-17s Junior Nationals would be super challenging, but we knew we could do it.

“The weekend of March 11-12 at the Lucky Charm Tournament in Harrisburg, our team won all of our matches in two games — we played best-of-three — except for our last match,” she continued. “We faced Pittsburgh’s Revolution 16 Grey in the final match. We won the first game and lost the second two, awarding Revolution Grey Freedom a bid for GJNC nationals. It was a super hard loss for our team.

“Revolution 16 Grey is well-coached by Avonworth’s varsity coach John Skarupa. Quaker Valley plays against Avonworth during the high school season. Two of my Quaker Valley teammates and good friends, Nora Hammond and Vanessa Pickett, play on Revolution Grey. I was so happy for Nora and Vanessa but disappointed for my team.”

However, MacDonald’s club team kept charging ahead.

“On March 25-26, we were back in Harrisburg for the KVRA Champion Cup,” she said. “We had unfinished business and defeated Rev Grey in the semifinals in two sets. We went on to the final match and got an American bid for nationals.

“We have three more months of the regular club season before nationals. Already having the bid alleviates some pressure. For the next few months, we will continue to work hard and develop, and hopefully make a good showing at nationals. Annica and I take weekly private lessons together with Victor Morais. He is making us better players.”

Competing in a national tournament is not a new challenge for MacDonald.

“Last June, I went to AAU Nationals in Orlando with PEVA 15 Premier. Nora was also on that team,” MacDonald said. “Our coach last season, Nikki Oakes, fought to coach us again this season to take care of unfinished business. We have an amazing (16 Premier) team. We all get along and have fun together. The parents plan activities and team dinners for us during regular tournaments.

“It is so amazing that four QV varsity players are going to nationals. We are all looking forward to playing together in the fall. Hopefully, we stay healthy and go all the way. For now, we are focused on having strong club seasons.”

MacDonald used to play soccer, lacrosse, tennis and basketball. Eventually, volleyball became her favorite.

At Quaker Valley, she is in the prestigious Global Scholars Program.

“My Self Designed Learning Project is collecting food, clothing and household items,” MacDonald said, “and raising money for migrants from Brazil and (Spanish-speaking) countries through Casa San Jose, a ministry through the Sisters of St. Joseph (out of Baden).”

Pickett and Hammond, both sophomores, are teammates on the Revolution Volleyball Club’s 16 Grey team. The 5-7 Pickett and 5-6 Hammond are outside hitters at QV. Pickett also is a setter.

For the Revolution 16 Grey team, Pickett is a setter/right-side hitter; Hammond is an outside hitter. They are coached by Skarupa.

“I am excited that my Revolution 16 Grey club team qualified for nationals,” Hammond said. “We worked hard to prepare and played our best in the qualifying matches. I am proud of the way my teammates and I played together.

“I look forward to having a great time in Chicago, experiencing the city with my teammates and family. It will be awesome to face teams who are competitive and also worked hard to get there. I will be excited to go to a Cubs game with my family and watch the fireworks at Navy Pier with my team.”

At QV, Hammond was elected to student council and participates in Key Club. She also is a swim instructor and lifeguard at the Sewickley Valley YMCA.

“I’m looking forward to Quaker Valley volleyball this fall,” she said. “My teammates are working to get better, and some will be competing in Chicago with me. It should be a successful season.”

Hammond and Kagle also are starting infielders on the QV softball team. Hammond plays second base; Kagle is a first baseman.

The Revolution’s 17 Elite, 16 Premier and 16 Grey teams all qualified for the national championships.

“I’m very excited that my team (16 Grey) has qualified for nationals,” Pickett said. “This was a goal at the beginning of our season, and I am so happy we accomplished it. I have never competed in nationals, so I’m looking forward to seeing the competition and getting a new feel for the level of play.

“I’m also looking forward to spending time with my team and family while being able to see how our team compares to really good competition. I don’t know of our exact plans, but I know we will be watching fireworks together.”

Pickett is a two-sport athlete at QV, competing in volleyball and track. She is a member of student council, Black Student Union and the Key Club.

Moralis, who played volleyball professionally in Brazil and other countries, has coached all four QV girls. Along with leading the PEVA 17 Elite team, he is a coach in the Cal (Pa.) women’s volleyball program.

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