Chartiers Valley volleyball adapts to changes to make WPIAL playoffs

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Thursday, October 17, 2019 | 5:16 PM


Two months ago, during a Chartiers Valley girls volleyball practice, the gym walls would reverberate mostly with the sound of bouncing balls and squeaking sneakers. Chatter was at a minimum.

As the Colts prepared for the WPIAL playoffs, that had changed. Players implored their teammates to push harder, to make better passes, to get sets higher.

The intensity level increased, the result of new coach Kevin Hummert’s personality rubbing off on his team. Through Oct. 16, Chartiers Valley was 10-3 in Section 2-AAA and had a spot in the playoffs secured.

The Colts lost prominent players Mara Hartoyo and Ashlynn Gulakowski to graduation. Hummert came in with a new system and made personnel changes. The changes got the season off to a slow start, but CV picked up steam throughout.

“Even though we lost some key players, we were all pretty confident,” senior outside hitter Riley Pawlosky said. “With the new coach, it gave us all a fresh start. Having a new set of eyes on the game really helped us.

“We like the new intensity and especially in practices. He always pushes us to play in practice how we play in the game.”

Hummert had a nucleus of six seniors — Pawlosky, Julia O’Neil, Amaleen Malcolm, Valerie O’Neil, Liz Sarasnick and Bri Kesseler — upon which to build, but after they spent three seasons under former coach Jason Ferri, the transition for their final season wasn’t going to be easy. Hummert, though, said he was impressed by how quickly the players came around.

“The senior group has been great with how they have taken to the change,” Hummert said. “That can be hard for one year. The seniors have to adjust on the fly, and they were pretty good at adapting to this.”

The sluggish start to the season had more to do with injuries than any difficulties with having a new coach and a new system.

Pawlosky, who had played libero under Ferri, was to be moved to outside hitter and Paige Cousley to libero. But Cousley’s recovery from a broken foot delayed her entry into the lineup. Once she returned and Hummert had a full complement of players, the Colts thrived.

Pawlosky, meanwhile, blossomed in her new role. She played outside hitter when she was younger, so she wasn’t unfamiliar with the position. Switching from the defensive mindset of a libero to the attacking mentality of a hitter, however, took some time.

“Playing the front row is a whole different ballgame,” she said. “At the beginning, I thought way too much about it. But Coach Hummert gave me some of the best advice. … He said, ‘You have to believe you can hit.’ Once he said that, a switch flipped in my mind.”

If there is one element the Colts lack, it is a dominant player. Hummert said many of the top teams have a Division I-caliber player who can control matches. So Char Valley counters with balance, spreading its touches so opposing teams can’t focus on one player.

Hummert also has stressed being efficient with passing. He switched from a three-person back row to using primarily his two best passers — Cousley and Pawlosky — in serve-receive situations.

Regardless of the playoff outcome, Pawlosky said she is satisfied with her final season. The players took what could have been a difficult situation and turned it into a positive, and now they have a blueprint for future teams to follow.

“This season was kind of a shock to most people,” she said. “We had to work harder than we had to work before. The hard work has paid off tremendously. We were at a rough patch, but now I think … we all understand what we have to play for.”

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