After dropping to Class 2A, Latrobe boys volleyball ready for role as WPIAL favorite

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Monday, April 10, 2023 | 8:57 AM


Minutes after exiting the court following Latrobe’s 3-2 loss to Hempfield, Drew Vosefski flashed a smile at a well-wisher.

“It’s early,” the Latrobe boys volleyball coach said over the noise of fans disbursing from the Latrobe High School gymnasium.

In a battle of neighboring rivals with a history of ultra-competitive matches at the Class 3A level, No. 8 Hempfield proved too much for now-Class 2A Latrobe in the early-season test.

It came just days after the Wildcats opened their schedule with an impressive 3-0 victory over Class 3A No. 5 Butler.

Latrobe entered the week at No. 1 in the Western Pa. Volleyball Coaches Association Class 2A rankings.

“This team is going to be special,” Vosefski said. “We’ve got a bunch of kids that are coming through for a common goal. And that is to win their section and, hopefully, win the Double A title, the WPIAL title.”

Latrobe, for years one of the WPIAL’s smallest Class 3A programs, returned to Class 2A for the first time since 2008 under the District 7 governing body’s latest enrollment-driven reclassification.

“I don’t think we’ll have any problems playing in Double-A,” Vosefski said. “We can compete with anybody in the WPIAL on any given night. We’ve always been one of the top eight in the (Class 3A) playoffs.”

But it’s been a grind for Latrobe, which has yet to win a WPIAL title. The Wildcats, as a 10th seed, bowed out of the 2022 Class 3A playoffs in the opening round with a 3-2 loss to No. 7 Upper St. Clair.

With the move to Class 2A, Vosefski hoped his players would look forward to becoming “the big dogs.”

“The target’s on our back,” he said. “I believe the guys will look at it this year knowing we don’t have the North Allegheny’s and Seneca Valley’s to go up against.”

North Allegheny outlasted Seneca Valley, 3-2, in the 2022 Class 3A championship match before going on to win its fourth consecutive PIAA title, beating District 3 champion Central Dauphin, 3-1, in the final.

But in Class 2A, such traditional contenders as Deer Lakes and Derry await Latrobe in Section 2, which also includes Armstrong, Gateway and Mars.

Montour is the defending WPIAL champion while Ambridge has won 10 Class 2A championships and one in Class 3A. Both teams compete in Section 1.

“There’s some good programs out there,” Vosefski said. “We just need to come and play and don’t take anybody lightly.”

Coincidentally, Latrobe last week was scheduled to face Deer Lakes on Tuesday at home before traveling to Derry on Thursday as the Wildcats’ section schedule prepared to get underway.

Vosefski, who is in his 23rd season as Latrobe’s coach and 27th with the program, welcomed the early-season challenges.

I have eight seniors back, but I also have a lot of underclassmen with a lot of experience,” he said.

The returning starters for Latrobe include 5-foot-9 setter Josh Havrilla, 6-4 middle hitter Rocco Marino, 6-0 middle hitter Tyler Mondock, 6-2 outside hitter Tyler Nelson, 5-10 libero Ruben Rojas and 6-5 middle hitter Isiac Waszo, all seniors, and 6-0 junior outside hitter Sam Kiesel.

The team’s other seniors are defensive specialist Cameron Baker and middle blocker John Elder.

“We’re hoping to get to the point where, if something happens, we can just plug and play, put a new guy in and not miss a beat,” Vosefski said. “The challenge is to be more consistent and be the guys that are left standing at the end of the match with the win. We’re working towards that.”

Year-by-year, Vosefski’s love for coaching the sport doesn’t wane.

“I’ve never hated this,” he said. “The hours, the travel, nothing about it bothers me. I love it, and my wife knows it’s my one vice and she’s accepted it. I was lucky enough to coach my kids, and people ask me every year, ‘Why do you keep doing it?’ I say, ‘Because I get new sons and daughters every year.’ That’s what keeps me going.”

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