Bethel Park’s Psotka taking Division I volleyball talents to the beach

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Monday, August 31, 2020 | 2:18 PM


Alexa Psotka is looking forward to putting her feet in the sand on the Atlantic Coast in South Carolina.

No, she’s not eyeing up a sunny and warm vacation spot but rather a golden opportunity in volleyball at the Division I level.

The Bethel Park senior standout recently gave a verbal commitment to play volleyball at the College of Charleston. It is a package deal as she will join the regular hard court indoor squad and also hopes to make her mark in beach volleyball, a sport that is on the rise in the NCAA.

“The campus is beautiful, and the volleyball program has an amazing coaching staff with a very high level of play,” said Psotka, an All-WPIAL second-team selection at outside hitter last season.

“The opportunity to play beach is an added bonus. It is just a great fit for me. I am really excited.”

Psotka, who also garnered Division I interest from schools such as Akron, Rhode Island and Wisconsin Green Bay, connected with the College of Charleston coaches while attending an on-campus camp last summer, and the idea of also playing beach volleyball was born.

Most of the players in the program at the College of Charleston play on both the indoor and beach volleyball teams.

The Cougars beach program was one of 64 at the NCAA Division I level for the 2019-20 season. There also were 16 at the Division II level and five in Division III with several others hoping to join.

Kaitlin Fournier, a senior at Elizabeth Forward, committed to play volleyball at the University of Georgia last December, and the Bulldogs athletic department is exploring the possibility of adding beach volleyball to its ranks.

Psotka, also a member of the Pittsburgh Elite Volleyball club, said it is a relief to have the decision finalized.

“I had visits set up for a few other schools, and unfortunately, they had to cancel,” said Psotka, whose father, Dalibor, is a former Czech ice hockey world champion and a former professional player in the U.S.

“I was really nervous about all of it with the pandemic. Everything was on pause. It was stressful because the NCAA kept pushing back the dead period. I was kind of losing hope. But then it started picking back up, and everything went well. Now, I can just focus on what (College of Charleston head coach Jason Kepner) wants me to improve on before I head to college.”

Lynda Scahill, Pittsburgh Elite founder and coach, knows the type of player and person the College of Charleston is getting.

“Alexa’s a very hard-working kid and a fierce competitor,” Scahill said. “(Coach Kepner) is really excited to have her come into the program. She is the first from the area, that I am aware of, who will play beach volleyball in a collegiate setting.”

In the first couple months of the quarantine shutdown in many parts of Pennsylvania, Psotka hoped to find a place to train. She turned to an opportunity out of state at the Elite Volleyball Training Center in Columbus, Ohio.

Pennsylvania opened up in early June under the green phase of recovery, and Psotka returned to hard-court training with her Pitt Elite teammates. But, on the encouragement of the training center staff, she continued to travel to Columbus twice a week throughout the summer to train and play in doubles tournaments on the center’s beach courts with Pittsburgh Elite teammate Charlie Allison, a Washington County resident who attends The Linsly School in Wheeling, W.Va.

“We got a lot of good experience on the sand courts this summer,” Psotka said. “We played against some of the best players in the country. I think it also really helped with my indoor skills.”

Psotka also trained close to home during the pandemic quarantine. Her parents set up a net in the back yard, and she would also set out on running workouts to stay fit.

Weight training also was a staple of her fitness regimen. Former Pittsburgh Penguins star Tyler Kennedy, a family friend and Dalibor’s hockey training colleague, helped Alexa by providing training equipment and tips for workouts in the basement of her home.

Psotka said she’s motivated to begin the girls volleyball season. Bethel Park hopes to return to the WPIAL playoffs after missing out last fall.

The Black Hawks advanced to the WPIAL Class 4A quarterfinals in 2018, and Psotka earned second-team All-Section 2 recognition.

“We had a lot of skill last year, but it just didn’t fall into place for us,” Psotka said. “We really bonded as a team over the summer, and the chemistry among the players is strong. I think we have everything we need, and we should be a team everyone wants to beat.”

Bethel Park coach Brooke Muraco likes what she sees from Psotka as a team leader.

“Alexa is a solid outside hitter for us with a ton of energy,” Muraco said. “Her skills are helping the team become a well-oiled machine.”

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

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