Fast start provides boost to North Hills girls volleyball team

Saturday, September 19, 2020 | 11:01 AM

Getting on the court was a victory in itself, but the North Hills girls volleyball team took it a step further when it kicked off its season Sept. 15.

After dropping the first game to Fox Chapel, the Indians rallied to win the next three, 25-18, 25-22, 26-24, to earn a 3-1 win over the Foxes in Section 1-4A.

“I am very happy with what the team has accomplished so far,” coach Vicky Danko said. “Getting that first win under your belt is a huge marker since starting our preseason in May.”

Senior Sydney Ryan had 21 kills, sophomore Emma Patsilevas added 38 assists, and freshman Giana Cutenese contributed four aces.

Ryan and junior outside hitter Tatum Zwick are serving as the team’s co-captains this season and helping the Indians adjust to the challenging covid restrictions.

“Since returning to the gym, the girls have been practicing and holding themselves accountable,” Danko said. “I knew coming in this year we had some openings for varsity positions due to graduating five seniors, so I wanted to make sure we were filling those spots in with the right people.

“Overall, I know all of the girls were very eager to start their game schedule and am glad that our hard work in the preseason started us off on the right foot.”

North Hills, which finished 3-9 in Section 1-4A last season, faces a challenging slate of opponents again this season in Section 1 against Butler, Fox Chapel, Pine-Richland, Seneca Valley, Shaler and North Allegheny, which has won two of the past three WPIAL Class 4A titles and was the district runner-up last season.

“Since I have started coaching in this program, our goal has been to make it to playoffs,” said Danko, a third-year coach who was named the Section 1-4A Coach of the Year last season.

“And that is still a goal of ours, but with all of covid-19 restrictions, our team is just excited to have the opportunity to play and we are taking one match at a time and playing that match to the best of our ability.”

NA chasing 4th straight PIAA title

Expectations are high again this season for three-time defending PIAA champion North Allegheny, which started the season atop the WPIAL Coaches Association rankings in Class 4A.

The Tigers, who are set to open their season Sept. 29 at Pine-Richland, also were ranked No. 1 in the region by the American Volleyball Coaches Association/USA Today. That region includes teams in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington, D.C., New Jersey, Virginia and Delaware.

North Allegheny will be led this season by senior setter Paige Morningstar, a Louisville recruit who was the Trib HSSN Athlete of the Year for 2019-20. She was named to the all-state team for a second time and was a first-team all-section selection last season.

Also back is senior hitter Paige Miller, who was honorable mention all-section last season. The team also includes seniors Madison Beer (middle hitter) and Leigh Ivory (right-side hitter).

Bill Hartlep is the sports editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill at or via Twitter @BHartlep_Trib.

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