Plum boys volleyball aims for success under new leadership

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Saturday, April 10, 2021 | 11:01 AM


The Plum boys volleyball team is hopeful for a run at a berth in the WPIAL playoffs this spring, and the Mustangs will go after it in a new classification with a new coach at the helm.

It is a rebirth of sorts for the team, which now calls Class AA home in Section 2 with Deer Lakes, Derry, Gateway and Mars.

“I knew coming into this season the athleticism we have on this team,” said Fisher Bagiatis, who took over as head coach in January after joining the program as an assistant last year.

“That made it exciting to see their potential.”

Bagiatis was a standout volleyball player and golfer at Hempfield before joining the men’s golf team at Clarion.

The 2019 Clarion grad became a teacher in the Plum School District and quickly became involved with the boys volleyball program.

Last year, Plum hoped to improve upon a 2-10 section mark from 2019, its final season in Class AAA. But concerns over the growing coronavirus pandemic halted the 2020 season before it could get started.

The Mustangs played one scrimmage before everything was shut down.

“That scrimmage was the last time we stepped on a volleyball court last year, and it was the last time with last year’s seniors,” senior outside hitter Alex Vidas said.

“We were still trying to get the chemistry together, but we were coming along. We were playing guys in different positions just to find the right combinations and figure out what works best for us. That was tough to have the season canceled like that. So it really feels good to be back. We’re all very thankful for this opportunity, and we don’t want to waste it.”

Plum was set up as a young team last year with just three seniors.

Vidas, a 6-foot-5 outside hitter who started as a sophomore in 2019 and earned second-team all-section honors, leads the Mustangs returning players.

He is joined this season by a core group that includes 6-4 senior hitter Evan Azzara, a Miami (Ohio) football recruit; senior hitter Gavin Chandler; senior libero Keith Mawhinney; junior setter/hitter Tommie Marzina; junior setter/hitter Cameron Moss; and junior hitter Jason Rowe.

“I am super excited for what we can do over the rest of the season, and I know a lot of others on the team feel that same way,” Vidas said.

“We have some on the team playing roles they have never played before, so some things are new for them. We do have some new players with not a lot of experience, but they have a lot of athletic potential and good height. They are learning how to play fast so we can get rolling even better as a team. We keep putting the pieces together. It just takes time.”

Plum kicked off its season at the North Allegheny Tournament on March 27 and gained experience with several games against the Tigers and Thomas Jefferson.

The Mustangs then swept past Armstrong in their dual-match opener March 31.

“We have a lot of height this year, and our block really made a difference,” Vidas said. “Our block is one of our strong suits. If we put up a good block, we are going to put up points against any team in the WPIAL.

“We also saw a lot of good hitting, passing, and our defense looked good (against Armstrong). It was an all-around type performance that we need to have.”

Plum was not able to solve West Shamokin in another nonsection matchup, and Mars got the better of the Mustangs in the section opener April 6.

The Mustangs hoped to test their mettle Saturday at the Peters Township tournament before a section matchup Tuesday at Derry.

Both events were to be contested past the deadline for this week’s edition.

Plum is scheduled to face Deer Lakes at home at 7:15 p.m. Thursday.

The Lancers were fifth in the Western Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association WPIAL Class AA poll released April 5. Derry was eighth, and Plum was 10th.

“We are definitely not a young team this year, but we are a young with volleyball experience,” Bagiatis said.

“A lot of our guys switched from other sports to volleyball and have very limited exposure to volleyball. The athleticism is there, but it’s the volleyball knowledge we are trying to develop. It is promising to see where this team can go.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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