Bethel Park girls volleyball sets sights on section title

Saturday, August 20, 2022 | 8:37 PM

Bethel Park’s girls volleyball team plans to “hit the ground running” this season.

With seven starters back from last year’s playoff squad, coach Brooke Muraco is bullish on the Black Hawks’ chances.

“Almost all the returning players played competitively with a club in the offseason,” Muraco said, “and we did some good things in the summer to prepare us for our section. We have four returning seniors that have been on varsity since they were freshman. I anticipate them contributing a lot in the beginning of the season.

“We graduated two starters, but with a few adjustments to the lineup I believe we will hit the ground running and be a force. I know the girls are determined to get going and be competitive right from the get-go. They definitely have some fire and I find that very exciting.”

Bethel Park finished second in section action behind Moon last season. The Tigers are competing in Class 3A for the next two years.

The BP girls were 9-3 in league play in 2021 and lost to Latrobe in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.

The Black Hawks ended up seventh in 4A in the Western Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association final rankings last season.

Returning starters this year include five seniors, comprising outside hitter Grace Lejeck, middle blocker Abby Neal, opposite hitter Sophie Puzausky, and defensive specialists Mackenna Davin and Elaine DeLallo.

The two other returning starters are Essa George, a junior outside hitter, and Cassidy Sullivan, a sophomore setter.

“I feel like we will come out of the gate strong,” said Lejeck, a fourth-year starter. “We had a really great opportunity this summer to do a three-day camp with two Coastal Carolina coaches. The camp was so beneficial to us because we were able to connect and learn how to work better as a team. I am really excited to see how we get to show that on the court when playing in games and also in the gym during practice.”

The 5-foot-9 Lejeck is excited to compete in her senior season with a strong cast of players at Bethel Park.

“One of my personal goals is to be a team leader on and off the court,” she said. “Now that I’m a senior, I think it is a great way to prepare the program even after the season by showing the team a positive attitude and hard work.

“I’m excited to be able to play with such a great group of girls and I’m excited to show everyone what we can do this season.”

Lejeck has played for three club programs — Pittsburgh Elite, Renaissance and Revolution — in her recent offseasons. Lejeck and Puzausky, who have received Big 56 and all-section accolades in their high school careers, competed for Revolution Volleyball Club this year.

“I have been able to travel many places and play many teams from everywhere in the United States,” Lejeck said “My club years have taken me to many fun cities, including Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Omaha, Columbus and Orlando.”

Lejeck recently traveled with Neal and her family on a vacation to the Isle of Palms in South Carolina.

“We had an amazing time and a great relaxation before tryouts,” Lejeck said.

The 17-year-old Lejeck has a 4.1 GPA and currently is weighing her college options. She plans on becoming an orthodonist.

“As of right now, I am not sure about where I want to go to college,” Lejeck said. “But whether or not I play volleyball, I know I want to further my education at a university.”

One of the student-athlete’s favorite extracurricular activities at her high school has been participating in DECA.

“In past years I have done DECA, which is a marketing club,” Lejeck said. “It has been really beneficial because I was able to learn business skills such as advertising, marketing and entrepreneurship.”

Muraco, who teaches at Carnegie Elementary in Carlynton School District, is in her fifth season as Bethel Park’s coach. She is assisted by Jessica Hanson.

Bethel Park is in Section 2-4A along with Baldwin, Canon-McMillan, Mt. Lebanon, Peters Township and Upper St. Clair. The top four teams in each section will qualify for the WPIAL playoffs.

The Black Hawks have high hopes this season of ending their nearly decade-long drought of section championships. Bethel Park has won four section titles in girls volleyball in school history, with the last one coming in 2013.

WPIAL Class 4A is smaller this year as five teams have dropped down to 3A — Connellsville, Gateway, Latrobe, Oakland Catholic along with Moon — leaving 16 teams across three sections.

The WPIAL finals will be played Nov. 6 at Robert Morris’ UPMC Events Center.

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