Franklin Regional girls volleyball embraces No. 1 ranking

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Saturday, September 26, 2020 | 11:01 AM


When the Western Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association released its first set of rankings for the new season, Franklin Regional players and coaches were surprised, thrilled and honored to see their team No. 1 in Class AAA.

“We were very excited,” senior outside hitter Nicole Currens said. “We were saying how this has never happened before in Franklin Regional history.”

But the giddiness quickly wore off and reality set in.

“We also know that with this title we have a huge target on our backs and this is only going to push us to play our best,” Currens added.

After reaching the WPIAL semifinals and the second round of the PIAA playoffs, the Panthers are primed for greater success, perhaps even more expected success.

“Our team doesn’t take this ranking lightly,” Panthers coach Mike Feorene said. “We have worked extremely hard to get to this point in our program and it’s something we are proud of.

“Every team that plays us is going to bring their best, and we need to prepare for that challenge. A ranking is great but figuring out how to win the next point is much more important.”

The Panthers, who opened the season with four straight wins, have a host of senior talent led by big-hitting Aly Kindelberger, a DePaul commit who had more than 330 kills and a .350-plus hitting percentage last season.

Other key seniors are Currens, Alexa Feorene, Ashley Feorene and Renee Baldy.

Additional contributors on a deep, front row-strong team are juniors Sydney Breitkreutz and Deanna Perry, senior Ella Spears and sophomore Ella Evans.

Kindelberger, the Feorenes and Baldy are three-year starters.

“Our team has a lot of experience this year and we hope to come out on top,” Currens said. “We have a long journey ahead of us and we have to focus on one game at a time.”

Spectator restrictions have dimmed the atmosphere at early season matches. With an indoor limit of 25, volleyball has been greatly restricted and plucked from its norm.

“The season is much different with the lack of fans and the loss of tournaments being the most difficult to deal with,” Feorene said. “Volleyball is a game of momentum and having the crowd noise behind you makes you play harder. However, we now need to make that noise and celebrate every point like it is game point. Losing tournaments eliminated the reps needed for the long haul but that also was the case for everyone else.”

The two matches to watch in Section 1 will be when Franklin Regional plays No. 10 Plum. The neighboring Mustangs feature 6-foot-1 middle hitter Makayla Jackson, who has committed to Pitt.

“Two heavyweights who will both be ready to rumble,” Feorene said. “We have a ton of work to do, but I like what I see so far.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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