Inexperienced Penn Hills roster getting crash course in boys volleyball

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Sunday, April 10, 2022 | 8:01 AM


Penn Hills boys volleyball coach Jay Mitlo has asked his players to accept mission impossible. Fortunately for him, players like senior outside hitter Brayden Mallory have happily accepted the challenge.

The Indians’ coach has asked a team that only features six returning players with varsity experience to cram for a kind of volleyball test.

“What I’m asking these guys to do is impossible,” Mitlo said. “We are asking them to have three to five years of experience in three or four months.”

Thus far, Penn Hills has been going through the sort of tribulations that inexperienced teams are usually tasked with.

The Indians got off to a 1-3 start, including an 0-2 record in Section 3-3A. Penn Hills’ lone win came over Aquinas Academy.

The Indians didn’t have the easiest schedule to start the season. Penn Hills’ first two section games were against No. 4-ranked Hempfield and No. 5 Penn-Trafford. The Indians also lost to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, which is the No. 2 ranked team in Class 2A.

What is most important to Mitlo is the Indians have persevered through their challenges and haven’t gotten discouraged.

“One thing we can control is effort,” Mitlo said. “These kids have put the effort in. It’s easier when you lose the worry about if you win or lose. That way you can focus on what needs to be improved and moved forward.”

Mallory said he enjoys the sport and knows the main goal for the program this year is focused on development. What Penn Hills has adopted as an identity is to be a gritty bunch.

“We know we are in a tough section,” Mallory said. “We want to be scrappy and stay in sets. We know it’s going to be tough. We believe we have a few more wins in us.”

Mallory picked up the sport in high school and has developed a love for it. When he’s not playing, Mallory has tried to watch college matches to pick up some new skills.

“I played pickup all summer and watched NCAA matches on ESPN+,” Mallory said.

Mallory isn’t the only returning player who came to the sport later. Fellow senior outside hitter Charlie Frachioni has dabbled in cross country, wrestling, soccer and played baseball when he was younger.

He picked up volleyball as a junior and has been working on fine-tuning his game. The biggest challenge has been problem solving. Frachioni always wants to make sure he’s taking the right approach.

“Hitting,” Frachioni when asked what was the hardest thing to learn. “I needed to learn to have finesse. I know since I’m hitting against the biggest guys, I need to try and hit it off the block and have it go out of bounds. I also will try to tip to an open spot if I see a certain block.”

Penn Hills wants to keep developing those skills.

While the Indians are an inexperienced group, they are hoping to catch a few teams off guard as they continue to grow together.

“I want us to be better than where we were when we started,” Frachioni said. “We don’t try to play above our level and want to be scrappy and do the best we can.”

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