Gateway boys volleyball ready to make its mark in Class 2A

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Sunday, April 10, 2022 | 8:01 AM


The Gateway boys volleyball team got a chance to show its potential at the early-season Seneca Valley tournament on April 2.

Fourth-year coach Phil Randolph said he saw a lot of good things from his players as they came together to advance to the tournament semifinals before falling to Norwin in two games.

Gateway split a pair of games against Class 3A teams in pool play, losing to eventual champion Seneca Valley while beating Baldwin.

The Gators topped section rival Mars in a single game in the first round of the playoffs before taking down Trinity, 2-1, in the quarterfinals. The Gators also had swept past Trinity in a season-opening nonsection match March 31.

“To go in and know we were going to play up (in classification) for the better part of the day, it showed we were absolutely able to keep pace with some of the programs which have traditionally been more successful than we have been,” Randolph said.

“It shows we are not who we used to be. That is a result of hard work and a lot of buy-in from the guys. We have a lot of diversity with the individuals we have in terms of their ability to be multiple-spot players. We’ve seen that in practice and also saw that over the course of the tournament. Those games really gave us a good feeling going into the rest of the season, including section matches.”

Gateway was scheduled to open section play Thursday against a Deer Lakes team which finished 7-0 in section matches last year but came into this season with no returning starters.

The Gators, with four returning starters in the fold, also were slated to host section foe Mars on Tuesday.

Gateway will pay a visit to Derry at 7 p.m. Thursday.

The Gators were not ranked in the Western Pennsylvania Coaches Association’s WPIAL Class 2A top-10 poll the week of March 28, but after their showing at the Seneca Valley tournament, they jumped into the top 10 at No. 7 for the rankings released April 4.

“There is a high drive and intensity level from this team,” Randolph said.

“It is a pretty seasoned group at this point where for a couple of years, we’ve been playing guys up. Now, we’re at the point where we’re hoping to see the fruits of that labor. There are a lot of high-character guys in the program who absolutely want and can trust in each other to carry their own weight. Good things can and will happen when they do that. Knowing who we have back and how we’ve been working every single day, we are eager to show we absolutely belong among the best teams in double-A.”

Because of covid issues and logistics last year, Gateway played six of its eight section games and went 2-4. The Gators did garner a spot in the WPIAL playoffs and took a game off of Ambridge before falling to the Bridgers, 3-1, in the first round.

Ambridge went on to finish third in the tournament and qualified for the state playoffs.

Returning starting outside hitter Will Kromka earned first-team all-section honors last year and added an All-WPIAL second-team nod.

Kromka, a Pitt-Johnstown basketball commit, has been working through foot issues in the early part of the season, and Randolph said there is a cautious approach to his progression over the next several weeks.

Fellow seniors Ryan Bozicevic (setter) and Chris Lewis (outside hitter) picked up all-section second-team laurels last season, and Lewis was an All-WPIAL third-team selection.

Those three join returning senior defensive specialist Aiden Colberg as the nucleus of the Gateway team.

“I think we did a pretty good job last year for being mostly first-year guys,” said Bozicevic who saw some varsity time as a freshman in 2019 and earned a letter.

“We had three players who had started on varsity previously. Making it to playoffs and standing our ground against a really good team like Ambridge was pretty positive. We all came back excited to build on last year and show what we could do. The tournament at Seneca Valley gave us a good idea of where we were against all these good teams and showed us that we could go places this season.”

Bozicevic said the goal is to get Gateway back to the top in the section, something that hasn’t happened in the program since it won back-to-back titles in 1985 and 1986.

Those two section titles are the only ones in the history of the program.

“We want to get another year on that banner,” he said.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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