Penn Hills girls volleyball takes steps forward with young roster

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Sunday, November 1, 2020 | 11:01 AM


With a young roster that included no seniors, the Penn Hills girls volleyball knew it was going to be a season potentially filled with growing pains. However, the Indians took steps forward to what they hope is a breakthrough season next year.

The Indians, who finished 4-10, started on the right foot with a 3-2 win over Kiski Area on Sept. 14 in Section 1-AAA play. They wound up surpassing their three wins from a season ago.

“It set the tone for the season for accomplishments instead of participation,” coach Jay Mitlo said.

A trio of players — junior libero Angel Callaway, sophomore outside hitter Sarah Miller and junior setter Larissa Shelby — headlined earned all-section honors. Callaway was a first-team selection in Section 1-AAA.

“Angel, I wouldn’t trade for any other libero in the section. It’s about her defense,” Mitlo said. “She reads well and knows where the balls are going. She doesn’t only make the play, but she makes the play and the ball goes where it’s supposed to go.

“It’s one thing to keep the ball off the floor. It’s another thing to put it on target.”

Miller, who was a captain alongside Callaway, earned second-team honors.

“Sarah was not only our top hitter but our vocal leader. It’s a tough spot to be in as a sophomore, but we’re a younger team,” Mitlo said. “She was as coachable as a leader I’ve had. She took suggestions on and off the court really well. She developed a little more nuance to her game. She no longer has a power swing but made little adjustments to become a little bit of a smarter hitter.”

Shelby, a setter, earned third-team honors.

The Indians had an opportunity to win two of their first three matches of the season, however, Penn Hills lost a close 3-2 match to Greensburg Salem in section play Sept. 17.

Two matches later, Penn Hills earned its second win, a 3-2 victory over McKeesport, on Sept. 24 to improve to 2-3. Penn Hills defeated Woodland Hills, 3-1, on Sept. 30 to earn win No. 3.

The Indians earned their final win after sweeping the season series against McKeesport, 3-0, on Oct. 20.

Mitlo knew with the lack of experience, the Indians needed to be on top of their game in order to compete with the likes of Plum, Franklin Regional and Indiana.

“It was all about ball control,” he said. “We didn’t pass well and didn’t react well after that. We don’t have enough experience to overcome bad ball control. Once you pass poorly, it gets into your head, and it’s tough to go from there.”

With a team that was composed of a handful of players who played travel volleyball, Mitlo hopes they realized the potential they have if more of the roster had an opportunity to play travel volleyball in preparation for next season.

“It’s the realization of how much work is required to realize that potential,” Mitlo said. “We don’t think you will achieve something if you don’t work to achieve it. Just because you know you can achieve it doesn’t mean you have the determination and grit to achieve it.”

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