Derry volleyball team seeks focus for playoff run

Sunday, April 28, 2019 | 4:35 PM

Derry’s boys volleyball team wants to play for the WPIAL Class 2A title.

Sitting atop the WPIAL coaches association rankings for the past five weeks, the Trojans are favored to reach the championship match for the second season in a row.

However, coach Shawn Spencer knows that’s not a given and would like to see more from his team with five matches left in the regular season.

“I feel like we have the ability to play better than we’ve been playing. I think it’s a discipline and focus issue,” he said. “We really have to start to ramp things up as the regular season comes to an end and really focus in on playing to the level we’re capable of.”

He’s not alone in that belief. The players know it, too.

“If we’re not consistent, our heads kind of go down and it ends up bad for us,” Derry senior outside hitter John Kerr said. “We have to find a new way to keep that consistency.”

So far, inconsistency hasn’t hurt Derry in Section 2 play as the Trojans are 8-0. While they’ve clinched a WPIAL playoff berth, they want to wrap up the section title.

“Every team is getting better at this point in the season, and we have to be better. I think we will be,” Spencer said. “I think the kids have the drive and passion. We just have to get a little more disciplined and a little more focused on what we need to do, and I think we’ll be in good shape.”

The team has two big section tests remaining with road matches at Obama Academy and North Catholic, which are right behind in the standings.

“We know we have to go to Obama and North Catholic. It’ll be hard to play them at their places,” Kerr said. “Last year, we had some close ones with them on the road, and we know they’ll be tough ones again this year.”

Derry hopes to rebound from Friday’s 3-0 nonsection loss at North Allegheny. The Tigers are the defending WPIAL and PIAA Class 3A champs.

“I thought we played a pretty good first game against them. Then, after that, I felt like our confidence waned after losing the first game,” Spencer said. “We didn’t show enough resiliency the rest of the match. When we play a good opponent, we may lose a set here or there, but we have to show the ability to bounce back.

“It’s a harsh reality when the postseason gets here. It’s basically win or go home. We want to find that consistency before we get to the playoffs, though, so we have the confidence we need in those situations. We’ve shown that at times this year against some teams. Other times, we’ve shown a lack of focus. I think we’re our own worst enemy. I think there’s enough talent here to do some serious damage in the playoffs. We just have to find a way to be consistent and put it on display.”

The Trojans got a boost Friday with the return of Dom DeLuca. The senior made his season debut after recovering from a knee injury suffered during wrestling season.

“We’ve definitely gotten better as a team throughout the season,” Kerr said. “Having Dom come back, we’re trying some new things out and maybe moving some players around. It gives us more options.”

Derry looks forward to sharpening its focus heading into the WPIAL tournament, which starts the second week of May.

“The talent is there, definitely. It’s just the consistency we need to work on,” Kerr said. “Once we can get that down, we’ll be a really hard team to beat. We’re trying to get back to where we were last year and even possibly win it this year.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.


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