Plum girls volleyball aims to ‘seize the opportunity’ again

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Sunday, September 18, 2022 | 11:01 AM


The Plum girls volleyball team faced a measure of déjà vu this past offseason as it looked to transition after losing seven seniors from the 2021 season.

Seventh-year Mustangs coach Kelsey Bonk entered this season optimistic because of what happened last year.

Eight seniors moved on from the 2020 team, and while there were new faces in the lineup, it didn’t affect the team’s drive to the WPIAL semifinals, where it battled WPIAL and PIAA runner-up Hampton to the limit before falling in five sets.

“These girls this year looked at last year’s success and saw that you can seize the opportunity,” Bonk said.

“You just have to make the most of it, and the girls worked throughout the summer to be ready and make the team as successful as possible. We were pretty impressed with good numbers at the summer workouts, and some really good competition provided a good foundation for when we got into preseason practice and the start of the season.”

With several younger players and newcomers infused in the lineup, Bonk said she is pleased with the leadership shown from the seniors, including the four returning senior starters — co-captains Maya Nonnenberg (defensive specialist) and Emily Bologna (outside hitter/right side) as well as All-WPIAL first-team middle blocker Dannika Susko and setter Sam Glatz.

“We are making sure they know that while their play is extremely important, we also want them to know how important they are as mentors to the younger players, both mentally and physically, even to the point of being extensions of the coaching staff,” Bonk said.

“They have used their years of experience to help these girls along. We have a bunch of girls who came in new to varsity.”

Nonnenberg, Bologna and Glatz all earned All-Section 1-3A honors last year in helping Plum finish in a three-way tie at 12-2 with Franklin Regional and Indiana.

“It was really important that we step up and understand what our roles were for the team, not only what we can do in matches, but what we can do to make sure the new players and starters see what we see on the court,” Nonnenberg said. “From the start, we wanted to make sure they knew how important they were to us being successful and that they were playing their best.”

“It’s been a goal to remain positive and making sure we’re looking forward with our goals for the season,” Bologna said. “We’ve really improved from the start of practices, and we have to keep our focus on getting better each day.”

Bonk said she is happy to see Susko back playing well and healthy after recovering from an injury late in the spring lacrosse season.

“We are very lucky that she is back to 100%,” Bonk said.

“I think we did the right thing by holding her back. If it was up to her, she probably would’ve wanted to practice all summer. She is that type of player. She hates to not be on the court preparing and working to improve her game. But we waited and made sure we got approval from a doctor for basically each step of her comeback, from being able to stand and serve, passing, and then working into blocking and hitting. That really allowed her to fully heal. By the time the season started and she got healed, we weren’t as nervous. She’s now a full-go for each practice and game.”

Plum improved to 3-1 overall with a 3-2 nonsection victory over Elizabeth Forward (22-25, 19-25, 25-9, 25-23, 15-12) on Sept. 14 and stood at 2-1 in Section 1-3A with 3-0 wins over Gateway and McKeesport and a 3-0 loss to section leader Hampton (3-0).

Bonk said the team was able to take away a number of things to work on from the Hampton match Sept. 8.

“At this point, from what I’ve seen, Hampton is clearly the No. 1 team in the section,” she said.

“We have a lot still to improve on, and Hampton brought that out. Hampton has two big middles and a huge outside. We don’t have three 6-foot and up girls. It was good to see early on what a good and polished team looks like. We also had too many mental mistakes that we had to clean up. We saw what we needed to do to improve our skill sets to turn it into a more competitive game the next time we see them.”

Bonk said she saw improvement from the Hampton match to the match with Gateway five nights later, especially in the area of mental preparation before each point.

Plum was slated to face Woodland Hills last Thursday in section play before hosting multiple teams Saturday at the annual Plum Invitational.

Plum caps the first cycle of section play Sept. 27 at home against rival Penn Hills.

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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