First-year coach has reloaded Pine-Richland volleyball team humming

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Friday, September 13, 2019 | 6:52 PM


First-year Pine-Richland volleyball coach Hanna Ayhan already has a firm grasp on the level of talent that this season’s squad possesses, and she has a clear vision of what the team is capable of.

That’s due, in large part, to her familiarity with the program. After spending two seasons as the junior varsity coach, she filled an assistant coaching position with the varsity team last season.

Now, she is guiding a team that is returning the bulk of its roster after making it all the way to the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals last year. And while they have to fill key spots in their lineup that were vacated by the graduation of first-team all-section performers Michaela Pettinato (outside hitter) and Maddie Schieder (libero), the returns on their early season action have been positive.

“We are doing really well so far. We have the opportunity and the means to be really good,” Ayhan said.

“We lost our main outside attacker as well as our libero, but we have a freshman outside hitter that’s stepped up in Kaili Doctor, and she’s an incredible volleyball player. We also have a senior libero, Marin Laffey, and she’s doing really, really well. She was a defensive specialist last year, but she’s stepping in and doing a really good job of leading from the back row.”

The Rams (2-0) are also enjoying some particularly strong play in front of the net from Sophie Catalano, Maryellen Berger and Jiley Berger. The Berger sisters fill in as middle hitters while Catalano, a sophomore rightside hitter, is poised to break out this season after being named to the American Volleyball Coaches Association Phenom List.

Although the Rams are relying on two underclassmen to lead them in positions that require kills, there is an added degree of confidence that stems from the role senior Grace Kristofic plays as the team’s setter. According to Ayhan, the maturation of Kristofic is a prominent reason for the team’s success thus far.

“Having a senior setter in Grace, she’s just doing a really good job, particularly when it comes to stepping into a leadership role around the younger girls,” Ayhan said. “We’re a little young up front, so we’ll have challenges that come with that. But we are consistently skilled across the board this year, which is why I have high expectations for the team.”

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