Penn Hills takes lessons from volleyball season

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Thursday, October 24, 2019 | 3:53 PM


Heading into the season, the Penn Hills girls volleyball team was expecting to improve on its seven-win season a year ago. However, everything changed immediately in their first match.

The season started off promising when the Indians won the first game, 33-31, against Section 3-AAAA champion Norwin.

But in the second game, junior outside hitter Faith Crawford suffered an ankle injury and senior outside hitter Yasmine Logan suffered an injury a couple of points apart. The Indians lost the match in four games.

Crawford, who was a second team all-section selection during her sophomore season, was lost for the season. Logan missed about a week due to injury.

The Indians only had three wins this season with victories over Carrick, Trinity Christian and Gateway.

“We never we able to recover. We weren’t able to replace what Faith brought. We never were able to put it together,” coach Jay Mitlo said.

With the loss of Crawford, Mitlo had to adjust some things on the floor including senior setter Colleen Hoolahan’s role. Hoolahan, who was a second team all-section selection this season, led the Indians with 251 assists.

“Colleen was a great leader on the court,” Mitlo said. “She is a ridiculous athlete. We moved a little bit to some hitting just to make up for the loss of Faith.”

Mitlo had a lineup that was mostly comprised of seniors, including libero Vanessa Persichetti, outside hitter Maddy Banks and middle hitter Omokemi Balogun.

Persichetti, who Mitlo called the best defensive player he’s coached, led the Indians with 142 digs. Logan, an Ohio commit for softball, led the Indians with 82 kills this season.

In the 23 years of coaching volleyball, Mitlo has always wanted to make a positive impact on players as he shares his knowledge of the sport. In season where he lost his top two attackers in the same game, Mitlo found important life lessons that could be taught to his players.

“You can’t control what happens. You can only deal with what you got,” Mitlo said. “You are going to have things happen in your life that you can’t control and aren’t what you want.

“What are you going to do? Are you going to cry, are you going to go home or are you going to fight?”

With the Indians graduating a significant amount of players, Mitlo will need to count on freshman middle hitter Sarah Miller for years to come.

In her first season, Miller led the Indians with 27 blocks. Miller is the younger sister of 2018 Penn Hills alum Becca Miller, who was an all-section selection during her senior season.

“Sarah was able to start for us all season,” Mitlo said. “She was a driving force in a lot of ways. She started off the season in the middle and then we moved her to right side to have more of a impact offensively.

“For a freshman, she did a very nice job on a senior-laden team. They understood her abilities and her experience as well.”

Mitlo is holding out hope he will have the services of Crawford for her senior season. Next season, the Indians will turn to their freshmen class and the incoming eighth-graders step into the roles vacated by the eight seniors that will be graduating.

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