Aly Kindelberger leads charge for Franklin Regional girls volleyball team

Friday, September 20, 2019 | 7:52 PM

Every match seems like a new first for the Franklin Regional girls volleyball team.

When the Panthers defeated Section 1-AAA foe Woodland Hills in straight sets (25-12, 25-21, 25-17) Sept. 17, it marked the first time Franklin Regional was 5-0 in section play.

The same happened a match prior when the Panthers defeated Armstrong, last year’s section champion, to improve to 4-0. Another first happened earlier this season when Franklin Regional hosted a tournament and topped a 12-team field.

“Our coach talks about firsts a lot,” junior middle hitter Aly Kindelberger said. “We were the first to be 4-0, first to be 5-0, win our own tournament. He keeps reminding us about other firsts we want to achieve.”

Last season, Franklin Regional defeated No. 6 seed Laurel Highlands, 3-1, for its first WPIAL playoff victory.

With eight key returning players, several newcomers and the enthusiasm generated by last season’s success, Franklin Regional is eyeing a couple of more firsts — section and WPIAL championships.

“After last year, everyone is super-excited about this season,” Kindelberger said. “Two years ago, we went 0-12 in the section, but then we dropped down from (Class AAAA to AAA) and did pretty well. We’re feeling pretty good right now, feeling pretty confident. But there’s definitely challenges ahead.”

With Kindelberger, a 6-foot-1 second-team All-WPIAL player last season, and a strong supporting cast, Franklin Regional boasts the talent to take on any challenge.

“She’s an athletic, physical specimen,” coach Mike Feorene said. “She moves well laterally. She’s experienced. She plays long, and you can’t teach height.”

A standout in the high jump for the Franklin Regional track and field team, Kindelberger has 129 kills and a kill percentage near .400 this season.

With her strong play and Franklin Regional’s improving profile, colleges are taking notice. Kindelberger visited Connecticut, is planning a visit to DePaul and has heard from Cleveland State and national power Pitt.

Kindelberger is flattered by the attention, but the emerging Division I recruit said the process is nerve racking.

“It’s nice to be recognized, but it’s also stressful because the only colleges you can go to (as an athlete) are the ones that are interested in you,” she said. “There’s less options.”

To increase her chances, Kindelberger puts in time with Renaissance Volleyball Club, where she plays and takes private lessons.

But her primary focus for now is on the team at Franklin Regional, which is No. 5 in the most recent Western Pennsylvania Coaches Association Class AAA rankings.

After all, there are a couple of firsts to achieve.

“Our biggest strength is our serving,” Kindelberger said. “We have tons who can serve on the court, and we have tons on the bench who can serve. I’d say our passing is nice, too.”

Hannah Flick, who missed last season with an ACL injury, has a team-high 16 aces. Elizabeth Sarneso leads the Panthers with 125 assists.

Piper Toto has 57 assists, and libero Alexa Feorene has 123 digs.

Those are the statistical leaders. Mike Feorene and Kindelberger said there’s little to no drop-off when others enter play, which could key postseason success.

“We have a lot of contributors, and everyone is playing good, quality volleyball,” said Feorene, who is in his seventh year at Franklin Regional after stops in Norwin and Cal (Pa.). “We’re getting quality athletes. … It took six years, but we’ve got it rolling.”


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