Framework for success in place for Gateway girls volleyball team

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Friday, November 1, 2019 | 6:37 PM


The Gateway girls volleyball team may not have ended its season in a satisfying manner, but coach Phil Randolph believes his program is on its way to success.

The Gators went 4-10 in Section 1-AAA play, four games back from a playoff spot, which was good enough for eighth place out of 12 teams.

After starting the season with a 2-8 section record, the team managed to win two of its last four matches.

Gateway also swept the season series with sectional foes Greensburg Salem and McKeesport.

“We took very big steps forward this year. Where we are now is a better place than this time last year,” Randolph said. “Even though we will be losing some girls to graduation, I think that we have a group where we were able to provide a framework for what the (standards of our program) need to be. They took another step in turning the corner we’ve been looking to turn the last two seasons.”

It’s more how a team responds to losing than how it responds to winning that impresses Randolph, who cited a Sept. 24 match with a Class AAA WPIAL semifinalist and state playoff participant Franklin Regional where the Gators were able to earn a set win before falling in four.

“Despite our record, the girls were competitive until the very end of every game,” he said. “Oftentimes, when you have a team that’s not performing they way you want, you see people take plays off and point fingers at each other, but that was not the case.

“They were loudly supportive of one another and pushed themselves to the very end.”

Randolph said his team’s biggest problem was the inability to finish sets and games.

“It was much more of an emotional component than physical. We didn’t lack talent. We just couldn’t close out sets,” he said. “My focus has to be working the team to the point of exhaustion and still holding them to the same standards of play as they were at the beginning of practice.”

Toward the end of the season, Randolph gave underclassmen bigger roles in the lineup, which meant giving seniors less playing time.

The upperclassmen understood, wanting what was best for the program, according to Randolph.

There are quite a few players and aspects of the team that excite the third-year coach for next season, including middle hitters Rachel Passalinqua and Amaya Robinson, among others.

“The girls in the middle positions provide a lot of spark,” he said. “Rachel has played varsity since being a freshman and has continued to make very big strides every year. Her physical and emotional game has gotten a lot better.

“Amaya will be a junior next year and is someone who can toggle through the middle and outside as needed. She’s as fast as lightning.”

Robinson is also on the track team.

Randolph also finds future promise in current sophomore outside hitter Alexis Margolis.

“She is a basketball player and very strong girl, hits like one of the guys,” Randolph said. “She can absolutely crush the ball when she gets into one of those high and tight sets.”

Randolph, who is also Gateway’s boys volleyball coach, will still have both teams training and playing together in the offseason.

He has another season left to be coached in the current school year with the boys squad, but is primed for his fourth season as the girls coach.

“The hitting game alone next year will be in a very good spot,” Randolph said. “We will be 10-players deep at the defensive specialist position. We aren’t missing any pieces we need.

“We have everything in house. Anything else is just a bonus.”

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