Penn Hills volleyball developing skill during challenging season

Thursday, May 2, 2019 | 4:22 PM

Two years ago, the Penn Hills boys volleyball team was on the doorstep of qualifying for the WPIAL playoffs. With the departure of top talent combined with a tough section schedule, wins have been tough to come by for the program this season.

Even if the Indians’ record (1-10, 0-9 Section 3-AAA) might show they aren’t having success, coach Jay Mitlo has made sure to instill many life lessons for the dozen players in the program.

Led by Cal Fisher, who participated with the Indians through a co-op with Riverview, the Indians won seven matches two years ago.

Last season, the Indians were led by Tyree Spencer after Fisher didn’t return to the team as he prepared to play volleyball at Penn State.

Spencer stood out for Penn Hills’ boys basketball team this winter after playing limited minutes during his junior season. Spencer decided to not play volleyball this season.

Mitlo jokingly takes some credit for Spencer’s season on the basketball court.

“That involved his ability to leap, his ability to control his body,” he said. “He led or was second on the team in steals, which goes to hand eye coordination from volleyball.”

Without Spencer, the Indians have been led by senior outside hitter and setter Napoleon Le and junior outside hitter and setter Jacob Lach.

“They are good leaders, hard workers and lead by example. They’ve been on good teams and been on this team,” Mitlo said.

“Their effort isn’t a direct correlation to their record.”

Half of the Indians roster has limited experience of one year or less with playing volleyball.

This year, Mitlo has two basketball players — sophomores Ed Daniels and Alain Tamo-Noche, who joined the team for the first time.

“The first half plus of the season we really only worked on skill work,” Mitlo said.

“You can’t coach anything or do any X’s and O’s if you can’t move the ball anywhere near where you want it to be. In the last week or so, we have started to incorporate some strategic thinking and planning.”

The Indians only win came against Carrick on April 1.

The Indians lost both their matches to Latrobe, Hempfield, Norwin and Armstrong. At the time of the deadline for this article, Penn Hills only played Penn-Trafford once.

In the latest Class AAA poll by the Western Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association, Section 3-AAA had five teams in the conversation for the top 10 spots. Latrobe (third), Hempfield (fifth), Norwin (sixth), Penn-Trafford (eighth) and Armstrong received votes.

“I like this team as any. I appreciate them. They work hard. They are good kids. Our section is brutal,” Mitlo said.

As the Indians navigated their tough section schedule, Mitlo has made sure to have the proper perspective in order to grow the program for years to come with many young and inexperienced players possibly coming back next year.

“We look at it as the challenges of life. You measure how well you maintain your composure and are you getting better,” Mitlo said.

“There are times in our life where we face things that we can’t change and can’t overcome, but we have to. The only thing we can control is the way we respond to it. Do we fold or lash out at others or do we look inwardly and just get better.”


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