Pine-Richland girls volleyball navigates tough schedule, remains in playoff hunt

Sunday, October 10, 2021 | 11:01 AM

Angela Seman played for four years in Section 1-4A with Seneca Valley, and now as the coach at Pine-Richland, she is getting a different perspective.

One thing that remains the same? It is uber-competitive.

The section features the top two teams in Class 4A, Shaler and North Allegheny, as well as another top-10 team in Seneca Valley.

With standout junior outside hitter Kaili Doctor sidelined several weeks with a shoulder injury, Pine-Richland grinded through the first half of section play and put itself in prime position for a playoff spot.

The Rams are 6-4 and in third place in the section standings behind Shaler and North Allegheny.

“From being someone that played in it to now coaching in it, I think the biggest thing about this section is it drives you to play great volleyball,” Seman said. “There haven’t been any matches this year that we could say to ourselves that it wasn’t a big deal.”

Doctor missed seven games but was cleared to return for Tuesday’s match against Shaler, which the Rams lost 3-0.

With Doctor out of the lineup, senior Sophie Catalano moved from right side hitter to outside hitter, and Mia Davidson moved to the right side. Seman credited Catalano with being selfless and aiding the team in a time of need as it helped the Rams achieve a 5-2 record while Doctor was sidelined. Catalano is a team captain along with Katie Yanni.

Along with Catalano, Seman said setter Sophia Morse and defensive specialists McKayla Meehan and Gianna Rotelli have stepped their games up throughout the season.

“Morse has been working very hard to improve as a setter,” Seman said. “Meehan and Rotelli have been near flawless and giving so much effort in the back row that they have been really helping the team out.”

Two games in the first half that highlighted how difficult section play has been were the first meeting with Shaler and Seneca Valley. Both went to five sets. The Rams had a 2-0 lead against No. 1 Shaler, but the Titans rallied to win. They were on the other side of things against Seneca Valley, trailing 2-0, but rebounded to win 3-2.

Each match provided a lesson.

“I looked at (Pine-Richland’s) schedule from last year, and they lost to Shaler both times and only took one set in the two matches,” Seman said. “Winning obviously would’ve been nice, but that match taught us a lot about ourselves and the type of team we are. It was our first tough match of the season. The girls were upset they lost, but I told them that they shouldn’t have their heads down.

“The Seneca Valley game we took too lightly, and the girls know they did that. We played them the weekend before in a tournament. It was one set, and we won it 25-6, so I think the girls assumed it would be just like that, but Seneca Valley has never been a team to back down or let one loss define them. I knew it was going to be a battle. I don’t know if the girls knew it was going to be, but they learned quickly that it was going to be. We had to fight back hard, and it ended up being a good win.”

With Doctor back, the Rams will look to solidify a postseason spot down the stretch. At the beginning of the year, Seman encouraged her team to be closer on and off the court, and that’s something she is seeing come to fruition.

“We had a nice talk (last Monday) about where we are, where we can improve and what’s going well,” Seman said.

“I really felt at that practice that there was a whole other level that we brought it to. I think the girls are doing a really great job of jumping to my message of the team having a family aspect.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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