Derry volleyball hopes for extended run in WPIAL playoffs

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Monday, October 21, 2019 | 12:01 AM


Getting past the first round of the WPIAL Class AA playoffs has not been a problem for Derry’s girls volleyball team.

The Trojans want to pick up two — or more — wins this fall, though.

Derry begins its postseason quest this week. The goal is to get past the quarterfinal round, where Derry lost to the past two WPIAL champions: Beaver in 2017 and North Catholic last season.

“They are aware of what it’ll take to get to the next level,” Derry coach Brock Smith said. “Last year when we played against North Catholic, there were times it was back and forth, but they were in control of the match the whole night.”

The Trojans hope their postseason experience finally pays off.

“At the beginning of playoff games, it’s nerve-wracking because you’re playing at a new place and against a new team, most of the time. After the first couple of points, though, everything is normal from there,” Derry senior Kamryn Kelly said. “We just have to really work hard at practice every day and work on our communication because that is what helps us the most. We have to take everything really seriously because the best of the best are in the playoffs. We just have to keep pushing.”

Derry finished second in Section 5 with a 10-2 record. Both losses came to Freeport, a perennial WPIAL championship favorite.

“We knew going in that Freeport was the team to beat in our section. We played them better at Freeport than we did at home,” Smith said. “They don’t make mistakes, and they force you into making mistakes you don’t normally do. We’re kind of disappointed that we didn’t play as well the second time around.

“They are definitely one of the top teams in the playoffs. North Catholic has a tremendous duo of girls. Frazier can put a ball away. Serra Catholic is good, and so is Beaver. We’re in that mix of the top four, five or six teams.”

The Trojans sport a senior core of middle hitters Rylee Ellis and Sarah Aukerman, opposite Ally Pacek, back right defender Alanna Meloy, setter Hayley Trice and outside hitters Hannah Wedow and Kelly. Sophomore libero Sydney Williams is in the rotation, along with juniors Lauren Angus and Kiley Latshaw.

“It’s a well-balanced team. All the girls on the practice squad are pushing these girls to get better. We can’t be as good as we are without those other girls pushing them,” Smith said. “The younger girls have learned a lot this year, and they’ve really worked hard to make the older ones better. I am very fortunate to have the group of girls I have. I’ve been very blessed over the years. The girls put in the work in the season and the offseason.”

On the attack, Derry has turned its attention to ball placement.

“We need to be smart and make good plays instead of trying to kill the ball. The sound of the point doesn’t matter as long as we score. That’s all that matters,” Kelly said. “We’re trying to work on our hitting percentages a lot. We’re just trying to pick out the mistakes the other team is making and trying to take advantage of them.”

“We have to tighten up what we’re doing and play better defensively. We need to be more intelligent when taking shots and we have to serve a ton better. We’ve been a lousy serving team the past three weeks,” Smith said. “We’re progressing in the right direction. I like where we are now. We’re getting better at the end of the season, but I still think our best is yet to come.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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