Senior Spotlight: Bethel Park’s Boff sought to expand on-court versatility

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Saturday, May 2, 2020 | 9:00 AM


Editor’s note: Each day, Trib HSSN will spotlight WPIAL spring athletes whose senior years were cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.

Tony Boff had an expanded role in mind for his final season with the Bethel Park boys volleyball team.

Before the PIAA shut down the spring sports season in the face of the coronavirus epidemic, the senior libero, a starter for the Black Hawks since his freshman season, was working as a hitter on the right side.

The left-handed Boff was getting comfortable through preseason practices and scrimmage work as he hoped to build on past experiences at the position.

“I felt I could’ve had a big impact there,” said Boff, who last year earned WPIAL Class AAA first-team all-star honors and landed a spot on the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association all-state team for the first time.

He helped lead Bethel Park to a WPIAL runner-up finish and a trip to the PIAA semifinals in 2019.

“Tony has grown so much in the program,” head coach Zach Smith said. “He’s put in so much hard work. His leadership is something the younger players see. This season was going to be a culmination of all that hard work.”

The Black Hawks, who also returned several starters including second-team All-WPIAL performers in seniors Kevin Kerr (setter) and Tyler Simpson (middle hitter), had their eyes set on unseating North Allegheny at the top of the WPIAL mountain.

“We were so motivated after getting (WPIAL) second place the past two years,” said Boff, who also is a member of the Steel City club program.

“We had a lot of open gyms, two or three times a week, and we were all fired up for the season. We were ready. We wanted to win that WPIAL championship this year.”

Boff is not done with competitive volleyball, and with a major in finance, he will join the men’s team at Division I St. Francis (Pa.).

He made his commitment three weeks ago after a recruiting process that also included interest from Division III power Juniata College.

“I wanted to look over all my options as the (winter club) season went on, and I wanted to make sure it was the best decision for me,” Boff said.

What was that feeling like to be recognized as all-state after your junior season?

You work hard, and receiving the personal accolades are nice, and it’s an honor, but the team success is more important to me.

What is your best memory of playing volleyball at Bethel Park?

Our sophomore year, we were in the Fox Chapel Tournament. Central York was the big team to beat in the state that year. They were No. 1 in the state. We faced them in the championship of the tournament. It was heated and pretty intense. We ended up beating them, 27-25, to win the title. It’s something that will always stick with me.

What is your best overall memory as a sports fan?

The 2013 National League wild card game. Just the whole atmosphere at PNC Park. They hadn’t been in the playoffs for 20 years. It was the first time in my lifetime. (Reds pitcher Johnny) Cueto dropped the ball, and the next pitch, Russell Martin hits that home run. I’ll never forget that. It was such a cool memory.

What about St. Francis (Pa.) made it the right fit for you?

Getting a good education and being able to continue to play volleyball, it was the best of both worlds there. I’ve always had the dream of being a Division I athlete. Talking to the St. Francis coach, he wants to continue to build a winning culture. Their last freshman class was big with a lot of talented players. This class is shaping up to be the same way, and I am excited to be a part of it.

In addition to your schoolwork responsibilities, have you binge watched any TV or Netflix shows during this time under the stay-at-home orders?

Not really. I’ve just been trying to do what I can to stay in shape, and I’ve also played a lot of video games and have gone fishing when I can.

Where do you fish?

On the Mon River, and I also fish a decent amount at Cross Creek Lake (in Washington County). I usually catch bass, but this year, it hasn’t been too great.

Do you try to catch the Bassmaster Classic when it’s on TV?

Not always, but occasionally, if it’s on, I’ll try to catch it to see what’s going on. I like to watch YouTube videos for tips on how to become a better fisherman.

If you could pick anyone to give a commencement speech at your graduation, who would it be and why?

I would say Jeff Capel, the head (men’s basketball) coach at Pitt. Any time I hear him give an interview, he really sounds down to earth and always has great advice to give. I think he would be a great person to listen to.

If you were asked to give a speech, what advice would you give to underclassmen?

I would just say stay humble and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t achieve something. If you work hard, anything is possible.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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