After last season’s tough losses, Penn-Trafford volleyball aims to again contend

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Sunday, March 31, 2024 | 11:01 AM


Members of the Penn-Trafford boys volleyball team feel they still have enough talent to compete in Class 3A, despite the loss of solid players Daniel Tarabrella, Andrew Kessler and Carson Good to graduation.

“We had some good guys and did a lot of winning,” coach Jim Schall said. “Daniel was an all-state player, and all WPIAL first team, and Andrew was a WPIAL second-team selection so we lost some pretty key guys.”

The Warriors also saw Logan Swartz graduate. He was a WPIAL third-team selection who played the pivotal role of libero.

“It’s a new team,” Schall said. “We still have a good team again this year. We’ve moved on from last year.”

Penn-Trafford is looking to forget the tough, disappointing losses it suffered in the WPIAL playoffs at the hands of North Allegheny in the semifinals and to Canon-McMillan in the third-place consolation match. They lost both contests by scores of 3-1.

“The match against North Allegheny was disappointing,” Schall said. “We didn’t feel we played a very good match. We had a pretty competitive match with Canon-Mac. It’s always disappointing to lose at the end, but we can’t complain about the season we had.”

Coming into this season, the Warriors still have plenty of key players in important positions.

Senior outside hitters Keith Otto, who is 6-foot-3, and Brad Heinbaugh (6-1) return alongside senior Drew Sherwin, who has taken over the libero role. All three were selected by Schall as captains.

“They’re all different; each one has their different qualities,” Schall said. “They’re the most experienced and are good leaders for the team. It helps when the top players are choice leaders and hard workers.”

Joining them are junior middle hitters Caiden McDonald and Owen Gisi, junior outside hitter Connor Evangeliste, senior middle hitter Ezra Glenn and junior setter Nathaniel Rugh.

“Caiden was a part-time player last year, but we’ve used him a good bit already this season,” Schall said. “Connor is also doing well. That’s pretty much the returning lineup for us this season.”

Rugh was selected as a player of the week for the second week of the season by the Western Pa. Volleyball Coaches Association.

“He’s done very well here, at setting, to start the season,” Schall said. “It is a really big job, but I like the way he’s progressing. He’s got a lot of things to keep working on, but I’m happy with how he’s progressing. It’s nice for him to get a little recognition.”

The coaches also ranked Penn-Trafford (1-1) fifth in its top 10 teams for Week 2.

Schall appreciates the recognition given to his team, but knows it’s still way too early to focus in any rankings.

“There are teams that are ranked behind us that are really good, and we’d have to play very well to beat them,” he said. “Hempfield, for example, returns most of a very good team from last year, and they’re ranked behind us. Canon-Mac beat us at a game at the North Allegheny tournament on March 23, and they’re ranked behind us. We still have a lot of progress to make between now and then.”

In the tournament hosted by North Allegheny, Penn-Trafford faced some pretty stout competition both against the two teams that beat them last year (NA, Canon-Mac) and against other teams in the state: Manheim Central and Central York, which is ranked third in the state.

“The pool play was good,” Schall said. “We saw a lot of good competition, played some competitive games. We’re seeing a lot of positives to begin the year.”

The Warriors have played well in their first two games of the season. They swept Upper St. Clair in straight sets March 15 and put forth a good effort in a 3-1 loss to Shaler, the top-ranked team in the WPIAL and state.

“We have a pretty good team, and we did well in our match against Shaler,” Schall said. “To be in the top group of teams, we’re going to have to beat a lot of other very good teams.”

With two months left in the regular season, Schall knows there’s still a lot of work left to do, and the goal is for the Warriors to be in the top group when the season finishes.

“We have some new guys playing, and I think they’ll improve a lot. I think by the end of the year, and over these next two months, we’ll gain a lot of experience,” he said.

“It would be nice to advance to states. It’ll take a lot. We’ll have to compete well in our section and win a lot of tough matchups at the end of the season.”

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