Former Pitt volleyball standout brings new ideas to Pine-Richland program

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Sunday, September 12, 2021 | 10:01 AM


Angela Seman was a big part of Pitt volleyball’s resurgence, helping the Panthers win back-to-back ACC titles in 2017 and ’18 as the starting libero.

Now, as a first-time head coach, she’s hoping to build a sustainable culture with Pine-Richland’s volleyball team.

Seman, who ranks second all-time at Pitt with 1,851 digs, is ready to lead a Rams team that returns seven girls with starting experience that made the WPIAL quarterfinals last season.

“I’ve been trying to tell them that building a culture takes time,” Seman said. “It doesn’t happen in one day. I want them to dive deep into the philosophies I’ve put in place and focus on being a good teammate not only on the court, but off the court. That will really help them build the camaraderie that they need to fight and compete on the court.”

Seman, a Seneca Valley grad, was an assistant last year at Fox Chapel and coaches at the club level with Pittsburgh Elite.

She has three assistants that were college athletes. First assistant Lauren Lubarski was a high jumper and thrower in track and field at East Carolina. Natalie Palastro played volleyball at Louisville and Oakland Catholic and is the junior varsity head coach and a varsity assistant. Another assistant, Gabby Olson, is a Pine-Richland grad. She played volleyball at Clarion and Cedarville.

The coaches have some experienced players to work with.

Seniors Sophie Catalano (right side hitter) and Makayla Roy (libero) and juniors Kaili Doctor (outside hitter), Sophia Menke (middle hitter), Katie Yanni (outside hitter), Nicole Snyder (setter) and Sarah Faber (right side/middle hitter) all have varsity starting experience.

Each one brings a different element that helps the team.

“Kaili is an all-around athlete,” Seman said. “She can get up and hang and bang the ball when she needs to do so, but she is also really skilled at putting the ball in certain places where the defense isn’t. Sophie Catalano brings professionalism. She has that sense on the court where she never gets flustered. She’s very calm and helps the other girls stick to our goals by helping everyone keep their composure.

“Sophia Menke and Katie Yanni I was able to coach in club, so I’ve been working with them for six months. Sophia is a powerhouse in the middle as a tall, athletic girl. It’s hard to get a ball around her. Katie is a shorter outside hitter, but the competitive edge that she brings to the court is one you don’t see often. She’s definitely a leader on and off the court.”

Roy set for Pine-Richland last year, but Seman has moved her back to her natural position of libero.

“She brings a style of defense I really enjoy, because it’s how I liked to play defense,” Seman said. “She does whatever it takes to keep the ball off the floor. She’s going to have a big impact for us this year.”

The emergence of sophomore setter Sofia Morse and the versatility of Snyder as a defensive specialist and setter allowed for Roy’s move to libero.

“Sofia is a true setter and Nicole Snyder is a defensive specialist in club, but she has been training with us as a setter,” Seman said. “She’s a really solid player that can help the team when we need her.”

Pine-Richland is in Section 1-4A with Butler, Fox Chapel, North Allegheny, North Hills, Seneca Valley and Shaler. Seman said she isn’t married to a certain rotation or style of play.

“It really depends on the opponent,” Seman said. “I’m treating this similar to a college program of being able to scout a team before we play them and putting the lineup out that best coincides with who we are playing.”

The Rams got off to a good start in Section 1-4A play with a 3-0 sweep of North Hills Sept. 8.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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