Joyce sisters enjoying time together with Kiski Area volleyball

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Monday, September 12, 2022 | 9:54 PM


Maddie Joyce started playing organized volleyball in sixth grade, and at the time, she was hitting the ball around with older sister Sydney and mom, Robin, who enjoyed a standout career at Duquesne in the 1990s.

With those influences, she formed a foundation that now has brought her notoriety, including an all-WPIAL selection last year as a freshman at Kiski Area.

She was one of only two freshmen — Serra Catholic’s Cassidy Trahan in Class 2A was the other — to earn all-WPIAL honors last year.

“I’ve always looked up to my sister,” Maddie Joyce said. “She really got me in love with the game of volleyball. We talk all the time about volleyball and also life in general. We’ve got each other’s backs on and off the court. I am only a sophomore. I’ve grown a lot since I started, but I still have a ways to go to be where I want to be.

Sydney Joyce, a senior co-captain who is coming off a junior season where she earned all-section laurels, is happy to have her sister around.

“Last year was a really great experience for Maddie and I,” she said. “We’re sisters, and we sometimes argue and are hard on each other, but she’s my best friend, and we’re on the court together pulling for each other as we try and help the team win matches. Nothing is better than to share a win with her and the rest of our teammates.

The Joyce sisters are part of a talented and experienced core that hopes to return to the playoffs and make a deep run in Class 3A.

Maddie Joyce, who began her career by calling on her extensive Revolution club experience in matches and tournaments, earned her all-WPIAL stripes as a libero and defensive specialist. Despite standing just 5-foot-2, she was all over the court making plays.

But she was restricted, by rule, in venturing too far towards the net.

“I am never satisfied. There are always ways and opportunities to improve my game,” Maddie Joyce said.

This year, adding a hitter role to her defensive duties, she has more range and can make more plays.

“I will do whatever the team needs me to do,” Maddie said. “I was expecting to be more back row like I was last year and was not expecting to hit because of my height. I do love the power to hit and not have the limitations like a libero would.”

The Joyce sisters had not played on the same team – school or club – prior to last year.

Sydney Joyce, at 5-6, shows her versatility as a setter in the back row and as a right side hitter in the front row.

That versatility, she said, is shown throughout the rotation of starters and reserves. Those who return with starting experience include senior co-captain Brynn Bires (middle hitter), fellow seniors Madalyn Polka (defense), Bryn Hewitt (serving/defensive specialist), and Laci Safranyos (defensive specialist); and juniors Abbie Johns (outside hitter), Cora Coleman (setter/opposite), and Izzy Ondish (middle hitter).

“Some days, someone could be hitting great but are struggling passing, or vice versa,” Sydney Joyce said.

“We have a very deep bench. Many on that bench or in the starting lineup could play more than one position. We know if someone is not having their best day that there are others who can pick them up.”

Kiski Area finished 8-6 (fourth place) in Section 1-3A last year behind tri-champions Plum, Franklin Regional and Indiana.

The Cavaliers saw their season come to a sudden end with a straight-set loss to Albert Gallatin in the first round.

“Even though we made an early exit from the playoffs, we accomplished so many goals for the program,” Maddie Joyce said.

“Last season was a big motivation for us. Now, we want to build from there.”

Offseason realignment left Kiski Area in Section 5-3A with the likes of Franklin Regional, Armstrong, Latrobe and Indiana.

“Obviously, making playoffs is not easy, especially in our section with a number of really good teams,” said Sydney Joyce, who is battling back from an ankle injury suffered during her club season in the spring.

“We want to show we have the talent and the drive to be more than a team that just makes the playoffs and goes out in the first round. Last year showed us what we needed to do to take that next step.”

Kiski Area kicked off its season Aug. 29 with a spirited five-set win over Norwin at Kiski Area High School. Bad weather forced the teams to move the annual Pack the Park event inside from the grass court at Kennedy Park.

“It was a long game, but as a team, we came together and talked through a lot of things, and we came out with a nice win,” Maddie Joyce said.

The Cavaliers followed up the win over Norwin with 3-0 victories against Connellsville and Penn Hills.

Kiski opened section play last Tuesday with a 3-1 loss at Armstrong.

“We won the second game, but the first game was really close and could’ve gone either way,” Sydney Joyce said.

“Armstrong is a great team, and there is no shame in losing to them, but we know if we did certain things better, that match could’ve gone our way. We have to remember that for the next time we play them.”

The Cavaliers host a key Section 5 match against Indiana on Tuesday evening.

“That’s a big one for us,” Sydney Joyce said. “Indiana is a great team. It should be a competitive match. Against many of the teams in the section, it’s going to be a tough match and a toss-up. We want to beat Indiana to even our section record after the loss to Armstrong.”

Kiski Area visits Highlands on Thursday before taking part in the Plum Invitational on Saturday.

While it is still early in her high school career, Maddie Joyce has an eye towards playing at the next level, and she’s visited some schools in Division II and Division III.

She said she understands that to garner more attention, she can’t let up in her preparation for and play in matches.

Sydney Joyce said she also hopes to possibly play in college, but with the desire to pursue a medical course of study, academics will take priority along with finding the right school.

“Not knowing how much longer I will be playing beyond this season, I am making sure I don’t take anything for granted,” Sydney Joyce 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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