Chris Rotelli takes over Pine-Richland boys volleyball program

Sunday, March 27, 2022 | 11:01 AM

Chris Rotelli has been coaching for 25 years and in previous spots he’s had to build a program from the ground up.

That’s exactly what he intends to do with Pine-Richland boys volleyball.

It’s not going to happen overnight, but with the principles he’s putting in place both on and off the court he’s got his eye on turning around the Rams in the future.

“We’re stripping it down to the studs and going back to learning the basics,” Rotelli said. “We need to build a foundation and understand that it’s a process and that it’s going to take more than one year to see the results of that process.”

Rotelli coached the Pine-Richland middle school boys volleyball team last year and takes over the varsity team from Shawn Grady. He also coaches the Pittsburgh Elite Volleyball Club’s 12U and 14U boys teams.

Prior to Pine-Richland, Rotelli had a lot of different coaching stops.

He got his start in coaching as an assistant for the girls volleyball team at his alma mater Plattsburgh (N.Y.), while he was in college.

He went on to be an assistant on the Carnegie Mellon women’s volleyball team before taking over the Tartans’ men’s program and guiding them to a top five ranking nationally in Division I club volleyball.

He also coached the Vincentian Academy cross country team to five consecutive WPIAL Class A titles from 2015-19.

One piece he took from each stop was having camaraderie within the program. That’s what he’s aiming for at Pine-Richland. Last year, 28 players came out for the middle school team, which he said was the biggest turnout they’ve ever had.

Going forward his goal is to get a youth program going to get more players in the system early prior to middle school and to get everyone in the program to know each other from varsity down.

A way he’s going to do that is to schedule integrated practices, where varsity players will train with youth players.

“We’re really trying to grow the program from a holistic standpoint,” Rotelli said. “We want all the seventh graders to know the seniors and the JV kids and vice versa. We’re not going to exist on an island anymore with the varsity program. We want to build a long-term program. Rather than it being a year-to-year outlook we want to have it set up three years at a time, so we can look at those three years and then the next three rather than having to worry about next year all the time.”

In the present, Pine-Richland returns only two starters — seniors Justin Puthenpurayil (libero) and Colby Patrick (opposite hitter). A pair of freshmen, Matteo Rotelli (setter) and Luke Jancy (outside hitter), will slot into the rotation along with junior outside hitter John Varghese. Two seniors out for the team for the first time, Colin Ohlund and Evan Dougal, will play middle hitter. Rotelli has been impressed with how quickly each newcomer has acclimated to the position.

“I’m excited that we have some new athletic seniors this year that have picked up the game quickly,” Rotelli said. “We do have a good blend of experience. They’re not the biggest players, but they understand how the game works. They know rotations, defenses and basic strategy, which is great. From there we have to keep building on what we started in the eighth grade program.”

Pine-Richland is in a difficult Section 2-3A that features four-time defending WPIAL champion and three-time reigning state champ North Allegheny, as well as last year’s runner-up Seneca Valley, which also made the state semifinals where it lost to North Allegheny.

All four of Seneca Valley’s losses last year came against the Tigers. Other section mates include Shaler and Butler, which both won playoff games last year, and Fox Chapel and North Hills.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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