Bishop Canevin volleyball shows championship-caliber character during emotional season

Sunday, December 13, 2020 | 8:40 PM

The 2020 season was a teeter-totter of emotions for the Bishop Canevin girls volleyball team.

It started with the very real fear that there would be no season at all, featured the joy of great success on the court and included the tragic loss of their beloved coach.

“This group of girls was absolutely resilient in the face of adversity,” Bishop Canevin athletic director Dale Checketts said. “The emotional roller coaster they went through those two days was unbelievable, and I could not be prouder of a group of young ladies for how they handled everything. I know that Kevin would be smiling and very proud of them.”

Veteran coach Kevin Walters was in his 13th season as Crusaders head man when he lost his lengthy battle to cancer Nov. 6.

The next day, Bishop Canevin went out and defeated Greensburg Central Catholic to win the WPIAL Class A championship.

“We gathered family, administration and players together to talk of Kevin’s passing,” assistant coach Angela Wyman said. “That was the toughest thing I think I have ever had to do. We had debated on not telling them, worried about the upcoming championship, but it was the right thing to do.

“Those girls pulled themselves together, I think with more determination than ever, and played their hearts out the following day. They played like he would have wanted them to play.”

The championship was the fourth in a row for the Crusaders, who have won six WPIAL titles in the last eight years.

“We had a morning walkthrough before getting onto the bus that allowed everyone to relax a bit,” assistant coach Danelle Wagner said. “We talked about how strong the team already proved they were with covid and all the challenges that came with season. We all agreed from the moment we walked through the school doors, until after the match ended, that the focus would be on the volleyball, and that’s just what they did.

“The photograph used by the Trib at the end of that WPIAL match is my very favorite image of the spirit of Canevin volleyball. Passion, grit, strength and love.”

Bishop Canevin lost a lot of record-setting players from last year’s district and state championship team. However, the wins kept coming this season as the Crusaders won their section, earned the top seed in the Class A tournament and didn’t lose a game in the WPIAL playoffs.

“We did lose a few key players last year, but we had some talent waiting in the shadows,” Wyman said. “The girls really stepped up to fill some big shoes, and the returning players stepped in as leaders, which helped develop the team that we have. We always expect the best from our players, and we knew they had the talent to make another run at it this year.”

The BC season came to an end after an opening-round victory over Saegertown in the PIAA postseason when the defending state champion Crusaders were ousted by District 9 champion Clarion, 3-0.

“For the juniors, I talked about the level of play we need to play to win at the state level,” Wagner said. “But for the team overall, I emphasized what an incredible season it has been. We celebrated that this class of seniors was the first in school history to ever get four gold WPIAL volleyball medals.”

Wyman is optimistic that the beat will go on for one of the elite girls volleyball programs in the district.

“We have a lot of returning players and players in the wings to help replace seniors Izzy Beichner and Natalie Zurbola,” Wyman said. “Seniors Gill Golupski and Rutanya Taylor’s contributions to the team will be greatly missed, and finding that second outside hitter and a right side hitter will be an early task to address. The team has the potential to meet and exceed the expectations of this season.”

No decision has been made by the Bishop Canevin administration on who will officially take over for Walter, but both co-coaches Wyman and Wagner are very interested.

“I am looking forward to running my own program as a head coach,” Wagner said. “I was able to step into an acting role on occasions over the last six years, and it’s something once you get to experience, there’s no turning back.

“Angela and I haven’t talked about what the future looks like yet with us, but she is an intense, passionate and knowledgeable coach, so I know regardless of what happens, the BC program and Kevin’s legacy will continue on.”


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