Greensburg Central Catholic senior quartet earns all-WPIAL volleyball honors

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Tuesday, December 21, 2021 | 9:41 AM


After falling short of the PIAA playoffs in 2020, the Greensburg Central Catholic girls volleyball team didn’t let it happen again this season.

Not that the Centurions were crazy about the final picture — they couldn’t get past the Class A quarterfinals — but if ever a GCC team looked as though it could get back to the state tournament, it was the 2021 version, with five experienced seniors.

“Unfortunately, we’re losing those five girls for next year,” GCC coach Angela Grabb said. “We have some big spots to fill. It’s safe to say next year is going to be a rebuilding year.”

Who knows? Maybe the next group will step up and surprise Grabb.

“The offseason is huge for the girls,” she said. “I’ve encouraged them all to play club volleyball, just to continue their skills and training.”

GCC posted an 11-1 record in Section 4 and bowed out of the PIAA playoffs by losing to eventual two-time champion Clarion, from District 9, in the quarterfinals.

It came after a first-round victory over District 6 champion Bishop Guilfoyle, and before that a second consecutive runner-up finish to Bishop Canevin in the WPIAL Class A championship match at Robert Morris.

“We met our match with Clarion,” Grabb said. “They’re like a machine. They’re a very difficult team to beat. I think we played a little scared.”

Four seniors were named to the all-WPIAL Class A teams. First-team selections were outside hitter Rebecca Hess, middle/outside hitter Julia Kratzenberg and middle hitter Grace Petnuch.

Isabella Guerrieri, a defensive specialist/opposite, was named to the second team.

Hess, Kratzenberg and Petnuch also were tabbed all-Section 4-A first-team selections, and Guerrieri, junior defensive specialist/libero Kayla Desak and sophomore setter Emily Hess were named to the second team.

Outside hitter Danielle D’Alessio is the team’s fifth outgoing senior.

“We have some people with experience returning, but we’re going to need to fill some holes,” Grabb said. “We’re happy with what we accomplished. Making it all the way to the WPIAL championship for the second time in a row was an incredible feat.”

GCC fell to Bishop Canevin in the 2020 championship match, but the Centurions were denied a trip to the PIAA playoffs because of a schedule that was shortened by covid-19.

“It was a lot of fun, a great experience to get there this year,” said Grabb, who took over the program at the start of the season. “I couldn’t have asked for a better assistant coach. Erin Salas is phenomenal. She was my rock and helped out a lot this year. It’s what we needed.”

Grabb said Salas is planning to add middle school coaching to her duties next year.

GCC returns just a handful of seniors and juniors for next season, and Grabb said she is counting on them to lead the way for a larger underclass group.

“We’re going to do our summer camps again beginning in June,” she said. “I’m strongly encouraging participation in our open gyms Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I think this group of (outgoing) freshmen understand the magnitude of it. They’ve worked hard so far, and most came to the summer sessions last year.”

A total of 12 freshmen were included on the GCC roster, most playing mainly at the JV level.

“We had such a large turnout last season that we had to cut a number of girls, and that’s always a tough decision,” Grabb said. “It’s a very competitive setting, and all the girls know the odds they’re up against.”

Grabb said a lot of roster spots will be available with all the departures this season.

Desak and Ellie Altof, the team’s top JV player, will make up the Centurions’ small senior class next year. Junior-to-be Emily Hess and rising sophomore Eva Dennis are the other experienced players set to return.

“After that, all the other spots on varsity are to be determined,” Grabb said. “I still have to see who wants to be in those positions. I want to keep that option very, very, very open.”

While she expects her teams to sustain their successes, Grabb is attempting to stay realistic about it.

“I don’t want to make our goals unreachable,” she said, “but I want to make it so these girls strive to be better players at the end of the day.”

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