Baldwin girls volleyball sets sights on WPIAL championship
By: Ray Fisher
Friday, July 19, 2019 | 8:23 PM
As sophomores, they captured a section title, advanced to the WPIAL second round and posted 12-2 record.
In their junior season, the Baldwin netters again won a section crown, advanced to the WPIAL finals and PIAA first round, and finished 15-3.
The Highlanders, loaded with experience and depth, will be focused on taking that next step — a WPIAL championship — in 2019.
With six returning seniors plus two sophomore letter winners, the Baldwin girls are gearing for a banner season.
The returning seniors consist of Allison Murray (OH), Anna Baloh (OH), Ally Schenk (MB), Riley Lenard (OH/RS), Mia Hampsay (S) and Maggie Zandier (DS).
Sophomore standouts Heidi Johnston (MH) and Alexa Chapla (DS) also return after gaining valuable varsity exposure as freshmen. And senior Maddie DeLuca (DS) is back after sitting out last season. DeLuca was a member of the program as a freshman and sophomore.
A host of juniors also will be looking to crack the Highlanders’ starting rotation in 2019.
That group includes Bethany Voelker (OH), Makayla Mangan (MH), Megan Garda (DS), Jess Noss (S), Courtney Chapel (OH/RS), Louisa Tirobo (S/OH), Rachel Kail (DS), Grace Reed (DS), Brooke Shannon (RS), Lyssa Linden (DS) and Bea Cook (DS).
“There are going to be some tough decisions to make,” coach Chris Kelly said.
Murray, who has committed to St. Francis (Pa.), and Schenk are expected to be one of the premier tandems in the WPIAL. Murray is a fourth-year starter, while Schenk is in her third season in a starting role.
Schenk, a dynamic 6-foot front-row specialist, competed in the offseason for the Pittsburgh Elite 17 Premier team.
“I’ve been working this summer at Become Better Sport Performance and Personal Training (in Bethel Park) to get ready for the school season,” Schenk said. “We’ve been really focused on ‘trusting the process’ this summer. I expect our team to put 100 percent effort into every practice and every point to achieve our goals for the season.”
Like her teammates, Schenk is eagerly counting down the days to fall practice, which starts Aug. 12.
“I’m so excited for this season,” she said. “It’s hard to believe it’s our (seniors’) last season together. We have been so fortunate to have our coach, Chris Kelly, for the last four years, and I’m hoping for a great season to reward him for all the time and effort he has put into this team.”
Lenard and Hampsay kept in shape by playing for the Pittsburgh Elite 17 Black team in the offseason.
Lenard rotated between outside hitter and right-side hitter last fall, and is expected to maintain that dual role in 2019.
“The club season gave me a chance to continue playing with Mia and to work on elements of my game,” Lenard said. “It’s always a lot of work, but we had a lot of fun, and I had a chance to play back row and really improve my defense.”
A third-year starter, Lenard is anticipating a strong performance by Baldwin.
“The high school season is approaching and we are all very excited,” she said. “We have a lot of returning players that have been working hard, and we also have a lot of strong underclassmen coming up.
“Nobody was satisfied with losing against North Allegheny in the championship match (last year), so everyone has been working extra hard to hopefully have a better outcome this year. Coach Kelly and coach (Adam) Foote always have us prepared to play, so it should be an interesting season.”
Hampsay, who plans to pursue a degree in early childhood education, is a fourth-year starter for the Highlanders. She joined the varsity lineup halfway through her freshman season.
“I have played in two WPIAL championship matches in my high school career,” she said, “and I’m hoping we can finish on top this year.
“We are now a strong, experienced team that is ready to work hard and do whatever it takes.”
Baloh, another third-year starter, has had the most memorable summer among any of her teammates.
She recently returned from an international volleyball tournament in Europe, competing for BIP Chicago at the 15th annual Global Challenge.