New coach leading Belle Vernon girls volleyball in quest for playoff appearance

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Tuesday, September 6, 2022 | 11:11 AM


Belle Vernon never has made the playoffs in girls volleyball.

In fact, the Leopards usually are lodged in the bottom portion of the section standings each season.

Last season, however, the Leopards had their most success in recent years when they won six games.

This season, Belle Vernon will hope to continue its climb to volleyball respectability with a new coach.

Henry Mulholland is gearing up for his first season after serving as an assistant under former coach Jonathan Barr last year.

Mulholland is no stranger to building winning volleyball programs as he brings 25 years of coaching experience to the program. Some of his stops included Bethel Park, Chartiers Valley and Peters Township, and his teams won several section titles along the way.

When he agreed to serve on Barr’s staff last year, he never expected to become the top man, but, as he said, “Here we are.”

“I wasn’t looking to be a head coach again, but it kind of turned out that way. (Barr) was a good coach, but he is a young guy with a family and he made a decision that was best for him.”

Mulholland isn’t making any promises, but he feels BVA is more prepared for a varsity volleyball season than it has been in years.

“Last season was a pretty good one for us. And this is the first Belle Vernon team prepared to compete,” he said. “We have a lot of experience and a lot of girls who participated together in camps. We definitely have some talent.”

Three of those talented players Mulholland is counting on are returning starters Gianna Anderson, Lilly Shahan and Lindsay Nagy.

Anderson (defensive specialist) and Nagy (outside hitter) are seniors. Shahan (middle hitter) is a junior.

Mulholland listed three other players he expects to make strong contributions this season. They are juniors Cheyenne Dongilli (outside hitter), Sydney Skibo (setter) and Emily Oraweic (middle hitter).

“I’m pretty excited about our team,” Mulholland said. “The key for us will be taking advantage of our experienced lineup.”

He says one of his biggest tasks will be developing a winning attitude in the program.

“We had a couple of big wins last year, but it was more of a surprise,” Mulholland said. “We need to develop a winning mentality, the feeling of expecting to win. We need a tradition of winning here.”

That won’t be easy in Section 7-3A, where Thomas Jefferson is a perennial WPIAL contender and Albert Gallatin also has a top program.

“TJ is head and shoulders above the rest,” he said. “They have a machine there. Albert Gallatin is also pretty good, and they have a good coach.”

So where does he expect his team to finish in the standings?

“I’m hoping we can at least finish in the top four and make the playoffs,” he said. “Belle Vernon has never made the playoffs, and that’s a goal to shoot for.

“I’m not making any guarantees where we will finish, but we will be competitive. I’m sure that we will be competitive, and then anything can happen.”

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