Pugh, Faber leading the way for Pine-Richland boys volleyball

Saturday, April 10, 2021 | 11:01 AM

When the 2020 spring sports season was canceled because of the covid-19 pandemic, it brought a sudden end to the careers of a dozen Pine-Richland boys volleyball players.

It was a season the Rams were building up to, and losing it impacted the program several ways.

Normally Rams coach Shawn Grady would’ve brought his current group along last year by getting them used to varsity practices and getting some in game action, but since he didn’t have that opportunity he’s basically starting from scratch.

Pine-Richland has only two players with any varsity experience, whether it’s practices or games.

“Usually we spend a week on what would be called basics and fundamentals and then we really get into rotations and things like that in Week 2. This year we spent three-plus weeks on them,” Grady said.

“We’ve been working on going through simple things like how we run our out-of-system offense or fundamentally where we stand defensively on different positions. It’s not that the kids don’t know how to play defense, but our system is different maybe than their club is or what JV ran. It’s a lot of reviewing things they would have picked up at practice last year. We had to review all of it as if it were brand new.”

The Rams have a smaller group that normal with only 19 players out for the varsity program compared to 30-plus in the past. Grady said the middle school program is as strong as ever with 33 total players out for the team, so future numbers look healthy.

In the present, Grady and his coaching staff are looking to find the right mix on the court.

“We have some competition, and the challenge for our coaching staff is finding where everyone fits in,” Grady said. “I’ve been here for seven years and every year I had a good idea coming in where the battles for position were and this year I really had only two positions that I had a known commodity.”

A good example is senior captain Josh Pugh.

Pugh has been a setter for the Rams the last three years, but could fit a number of places this season.

“Coming into this year he’s our best setter, probably our best passer and one of our top two hitters,” Grady said. “It comes down to where can we put Josh and where can he have the biggest impact on the team as a whole. I think we’re still trying to find that out.”

The other experienced returner is senior middle hitter John Faber.

“John would have been a staring middle for us last year, and he is again this year,” Grady said. “He’s a tall, athletic kid that can really put a ball away. Right now it’s about finding a way to get him the ball as much we can.”

Pine-Richland is in the always challenging Section 2-AAA with North Allegheny — the WPIAL champion 11 of the last 13 seasons — Butler, Fox Chapel, North Hills, Shaler and Seneca Valley.

“Our section tends to always have three of the top four teams, and I believe that will be the case again this year,” Grady said. “North Allegheny is the standard, and I think Seneca Valley and Shaler are right there too.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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