Plum girls volleyball claims 16th section title in program history

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Sunday, October 25, 2020 | 11:01 AM


The Plum girls volleyball team returned to the top last week as they clinched the program’s first section championship since 2011.

The Mustangs’ 3-1 victory at Kiski Area on Oct. 20 wrapped up their 16th section crown overall.

“That was really exciting for the girls, especially the (eight) seniors,” Plum coach Kelsey Bonk said. “When my twin (Carly) and I started here, we decided to take the middle school job, as well. These seniors now were our first group in eighth grade.

“We knew from there that there was some great talent in that group. Then you combine them with some of the underclassmen, and you have a great combination of players who were dedicated to making this happen.”

The section title brings things full circle for assistant coach Rachel Satira, who was a freshman on the 2011 squad.

“When we brought her in, that was one of the first things we talked about,” Kelsey Bonk said. “She wanted to do everything she could to help bring another title back to Plum. That was awesome.”

The win over Kiski Area put Plum at 13-0 in Section 1-3A, one game ahead of Franklin Regional (12-1) heading into their section finale against each other last Thursday.

Bonk said the matches against Kiski Area, Franklin Regional and others helped Plum gear up for matches in the WPIAL Class 3A playoffs that were slated to begin this week. The pairings for the four WPIAL tournaments were to be released Monday.

“Coming down from (Class 4A) gave us a little more confidence coming into this season, and we knew we had a strong and experienced team coming together,” Bonk said. “But we knew it wasn’t going to be easy, and we had some challenging matches.”

Plum qualified for the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since 2017 when it finished third in Section 4-4A behind Armstrong and Oakland Catholic with a 7-5 record. The Mustangs entered the playoffs as the 13th seed and fell to No. 4 Baldwin, 3-1, in the first round.

“I think this year, the team really connected a lot more than we had in past years because there are so many seniors,” said Julia Vargo, a senior defensive specialist. “Since freshman year, we said senior year would be our year, and it’s come true, which is awesome. We want to continue that with wins in the playoffs.”

Bonk said being able to adjust and adapt to different playing styles, sometimes over the course of a match, helped the team’s success in the regular season.

“Last year, we had five or six five-set matches, and we only won one,” Bonk said. “At some point, you have to be able to make those tiny adjustments to be able to win those close matches. This year, we did a better job of making those changes within each game and within each set.”

The season started with covid restrictions limiting to 25 the number of people who could be in the gym at any given time. That made for some strategic changes to game operations. Bonk said despite those challenges before the restrictions were eventually eased, things went well.

“The girls were awesome about it,” Bonk said. “There was never a time where I had to harp on making sure they were following protocols. We talked about it at the beginning, and it never was an issue. They just wanted to play volleyball, and they wanted to do whatever they had to do to make it happen. I give them all the credit for helping to make those adjustments.”

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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