Momentum keeps building for Shaler volleyball team

Sunday, September 26, 2021 | 11:01 AM

There was no use lamenting an opportunity lost for Shaler setter Tia Bozzo.

With the specter of covid-19 restrictions hanging heavy over last season, the Titans were happy to be able to play.

Missing out on the PIAA Class 4A playoffs due to a truncated playoff bracket — only the WPIAL champion was granted entrance — didn’t take the shine off the best season in Titans’ program history.

Instead, Shaler reaching the WPIAL final before bowing to section rival North Allegheny has invigorated the Titans’ push in 2021.

Shaler (5-1) picked up where it left off last season, pushing Seneca Valley, Pine-Richland and Fox Chapel to open Section 1-4A play.

“It was so exciting to be with such a great group of girls and doing so well,” Bozzo said. “We have a lot of motivation behind us. We all believe we can get back to that spot. It’s about working hard to get there and doing it again.”

Navigating a path back to the finals isn’t something Shaler coach Paul Stadelman wanted to be passive about. The Titans built a schedule that would provide difficult nonsection matches.

Shaler will see some of the top teams from the eastern part of Pennsylvania on Oct. 9 at the State College Tournament. The Titans also swept perennial Class 3A contender Knoch and will play Mt. Lebanon and Moon.

“I think we have the skill level and the kids to go to a high-level tournament like that and compete,” Stadelman said. “We know throughout the day we are going to get a lot of good play and high-quality teams.”

Shaler’s not a team that will overwhelm anyone with size. The Titans program under Stadelman has long prided itself on being a low-error team. What Shaler needs to develop throughout its schedule is efficiency.

The Titans have been hitting nearly .250 on the attack, while Stadelman would like to see them around .300. Bozzo believes the hitting percentage will improve as the team gets more time together.

“I think it all depends on the team, which way works best for each team each year,” Bozzo said. “We are feeling out what our strengths and weaknesses are. It comes naturally, honestly. It will happen over time.”

The Titans always had an approach of development happening in stages. Mackenzie Barr, who hadn’t seen much time at middle hitter before last season, has been a solid presence for Shaler so far.

Sierra Ricci plays libero, while sophomore Hilary Quinn has stepped up as a sophomore to help lead the attack as an outside hitter. Mia Schubert is another veteran presence who has a knack for finishing kills.

Should the Titans continue along a similar path to last season, Shaler believes a trip to the state tournament could be in its future.

The Titans plan to challenge themselves every step of the way.

“I think, honestly, we need to keep doing what we are doing and believe in our style of play,” Stadelman said. “Being a good fundamental team and a low-error team is going to help us further and deeper into the season. We’ve been going deeper into points than I would like, but our conditioning has helped carry us. I know we can always rely on that.”


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