Plum boys volleyball hunting for Section 2 championship

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Saturday, April 9, 2022 | 8:01 AM


The Plum boys volleyball team has goals and aspirations of claiming the Section 2-2A championship.

Six starters are back from last year’s team which outlasted Trinity, 3-2, in the first round of the WPIAL Class 2A playoffs before falling to eventual WPIAL champion Seton LaSalle in the quarterfinals.

Second-year coach Fisher Bagiatis said he is cautiously optimistic this year’s team can round into a section contender and also see positive results again in the WPIAL playoffs.

“A lot of the guys don’t play volleyball year-round, so even though they are returning guys, we’re learning volleyball fresh once again because it had been six or seven months since they touched a volleyball on a consistent basis, and there was kind of a restart,” Bagiatis said.

“There’s also a different dynamic to this season because last year, we had a very powerful player who took a lot of the focus. This year, the focus is spread more evenly among the players. The guys still are learning aspects of that new dynamic on top of getting back into the swing of things with volleyball. As much as we have expectations and the ceiling is high, it’s tough to tell where we’re going to go because it’s still so early.”

Plum had to say goodbye to a pair of 6-foot-5 all-section first-team players in Evan Azzara (right-side hitter) and Alex Vidas (middle hitter).

Back this year with starting experience are 6-2 senior outside hitter Cameron Moss; fellow seniors Thomas Marzina (outside hitter) and Rocco Schneiderlochner (defensive specialist); and juniors Seth Favero (libero), Alex Smith (libero) and Jacob Pedley (outside hitter).

“Things have been progressing nicely so far,” said Moss, a second-team all-section pick last year.

“We are a younger team, but we have been gaining a lot of valuable experience through our first couple of matches and tournament games. We can see we are getting better and settling into our roles.”

The Western Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association ranked Plum 10th in the Class 2A preseason rankings. The Mustangs bumped up to ninth in Week 1 on March 28 and were back at No. 10 this past week.

But Bagiatis said the only rankings he and the team really care about is how they are ranked in the section, and that comes from picking up victories against Mars, Deer Lakes, Gateway and Derry.

“We’re just trying to make Plum the best team it can be, and where they rank us is what it is,” he said.

“We’re looking to be at our best and get the best seed we can for the playoffs.”

Plum kicked off Section 2 play last Tuesday with a 3-1 home victory over Mars. The Mustangs won the first two games, lost the third and trailed by seven in the fourth before rallying to secure the win.

“It was a nice start to the section,” Bagiatis said. “We were still balancing out a little injury and working the moth balls out of the closet, so to speak. It was nice to see to cohesion. The energy and passion were there. There were some mistakes, but the guys showed a lot of promise.”

Plum was slated to travel to West Shamokin for a nonsection game last Thursday before taking part in the Peters Township Tournament on Saturday.

The Mustangs were to return to section play Tuesday at Derry.

Plum faced several Class 3A teams at the Seneca Valley tournament, including Pine-Richland, Moon and Baldwin. The Mustangs went 0-3 in pool play and fell in one game to Baldwin in the first round of the bracket playoffs.

Junior setter Ian Mawhinney was injured early on in the tournament, and Bagiatis said Schneiderlochner came in and did well in the position the rest of the way.

“Ian was doing OK after,” Bagiatis said. “It was a light sprain, and we just took precaution. He was back against Mars. With Rocco doing well there, we started thinking about running a 6-2 offense with the two setters which is a slightly different style than what we previously had. We hadn’t really considered it before.”

Plum is slated to host section foe Deer Lakes at 7:15 p.m. Thursday. The Lancers went 7-0 in the section last year and were a senior-laden squad. They returned no starters to this season.

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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