Pine-Richland volleyball ready to return to title contention

Sunday, September 4, 2022 | 11:01 AM

Pine-Richland girls volleyball has a unique mix, and it’s one that could be very dangerous.

The Rams have experience, depth and a pair of dynamic freshmen who figure to be key players right away.

They came close to making the semifinals a year ago, losing a five-set heartbreaker to Moon. The goal is to go further this fall and contend for the program’s first WPIAL title in a dozen years.

“I have a great outlook on this season, because we have a lot of returners with knowledge on the court,” second-year Pine-Richland coach Angela Seman said. “We also have two freshmen starting on varsity who I believe will make a very big impact from Day 1. They don’t act like freshmen. They are very mature in the way they play. They will be huge assets for us this year.”

The Rams return their top outside hitters. Kaili Doctor, a North Carolina A&T recruit, was the team’s leader in kills and hitting percentage last season and fellow senior Katie Yanni was just behind Doctor in both categories.

Doctor and Yanni are team captains.

Sophia Menke is a returning starter at middle blocker, a position of great depth for the Rams. Senior Bri Gathers and juniors Gabi Williams and Maddie Lemoncelli will rotate in at middle blocker as well.

Juniors Kaylee Oglan and Macey Hayes will slot in at right-side hitter. Isabella Hoppe, one of the two freshmen who made varsity, is a setter, but will rotate in on the right side. The other is Megan DeKunder, who is a defensive specialist.

Sofia Morse, a junior, returns as the starting setter.

The Rams went to the Mt. Lebanon tournament Aug. 27 and planned to try some different combinations, but they have a pretty good grasp already on how to deploy their depth.

“We’ve been messing around in practice with different setter/hitter connections to see what hitters work best with what setters, and I think we’ve found a pretty good balance,” Seman said. “We’ll play around with a few different rotations, but for the most part we have a really stacked and balanced rotation.”

A versatile back row compliments the hitters and setters. Gianna Rotelli and Avery Kline are senior defensive specialists/liberos who will join DeKunder.

Junior Sydney Servango is a member of the backline rotation.

Realignment dropped Class 4A down to 16 teams and Pine-Richland’s section will look a little different this year. There are only five teams in the section. North Allegheny, North Hills, Butler and Seneca Valley are the Rams’ section opponents.

Pine-Richland will have its second annual philanthropy match Sept. 14 against North Allegheny. This year the proceeds from the match will go to the American Cancer Society.

With only eight section matches, Seman has scheduled a difficult nonsection slate, including Moon, the team that knocked them out last year, and former section mate Shaler.

“I told the girls that I’m going to put them in uncomfortable situations in practice, so when we face uncomfortable situations in games it won’t fluster us as much as it did last year,” Seman said. “At the end of the day, we lost (in the playoffs), because we got flustered. Everyone on the team knows we have what we need to win. The seniors are determined to do that. They know this is their last shot and they’re going to do everything in their power to not look back on this season and have regrets. If we’re going to lose it’s only because the opponent is outright better than us and not because we beat ourselves.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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