Q&A with Pine-Richland volleyball twins Jiley, Maryellen Berger

Friday, November 16, 2018 | 9:27 PM

This year’s Pine-Richland girls volleyball team placed second in Section 1-AAAA, advanced to the WPIAL semifinal round for the first time since 2012 and ended up 12-5 overall.

Several P-R netters earned Big 5/6 all-section accolades.

Two seniors, Michaela Pettinato (outside hitter) and Maddie Schieder (libero), a Villanova commit, were named to the first team. Two juniors, Maryellen Berger (middle hitter) and Grace Kristofic (setter), landed second-team honors. Juniors Jiley Berger (middle hitter), Maryellen’s twin sister, and Marin Laffey (defensive specialist); and freshman Sophie Catalano (outside hitter) received honorable mentions.

Maryellen Berger is a 5-foot-10 front-row player and two-year letter winner and was a second team All-WPIAL selection this year.

Jiley stands 5-9 and is a two-year letter winner.

“Even as kids, I have always been and inch or so taller than Jiley,” Maryellen said.

Pine-Richland girls volleyball coach Cassie Pratte talked about the 16-year-olds’ similarities and differences.

“Both play high above the net,” Pratte said. “Maryellen is a dynamic mover and has a quick arm swing. She contacts the ball high above the net. Jiley is extremely consistent. She does not make many errors and makes good choices.”

Maryellen and Jiley recently participated in question and answer sessions and responded independently.

What are your thoughts about the Pine-Richland team’s overall performance this season?

MB: I think our team was very good. It’s a shame we lost in the semifinals, but we definitely had some major improvements from all players.

JB: I though our team did very well, and we proved ourselves as strong contenders going into the playoffs. I was very excited to make it to the WPIAL semifinals even though it was a hard loss, especially being up 2 sets to 0. But I am very proud of our accomplishments this season.

How did your own personal season go?

MB: I think my season went pretty well. I am normally very hard on myself and always strive to do better, so I hope next season goes even better.

JB: I think my season went well. I got to play with a great group of girls who have helped me become a better player and gave me many opportunities to improve throughout the season.

What are the early expectations for next year?

MB: Next year’s team will be similar to our team this year. We have a lot of returning players that are very experienced, but we are also gaining some new sophomore and freshman players that will help out.

JB: Next season, I hope to finish the strong and to go far into the playoffs. My goal is to make it to the WPIAL finals and compete in the state playoffs.

What is it that you enjoy the most about playing volleyball?

MB: The thing I enjoy most is playing on a team. I really like all the girls on our team, so it is always a good time when we are together. The bond we have is something really special.

JB: Being on a team because I get to play with such a great group of girls. We always have a good time whether it’s team bonding, games or the bus rides home. These girls always make me laugh.

Are you and your sister making plans to attend the same college after you graduate from high school?

MB: I still don’t know what Jiley and I are going to do for college, but I wouldn’t mind going to the same school.

JB: Maryellen and I do not have any plans together yet, and right now I am not sure if we will go to the same college.

Do you have a nickname?

MB: My nickname is Big Cat. At the beginning of the season Jiley’s nickname was Big Dog, but as our season went on the title of Big Dog was given to whoever played better that game and would vary between each game. But toward the middle to end of the season, the nickname was just given permanently to Jiley, so then mine became Big Cat.

JB: Big Dog.

Who has the best nickname on the P-R volleyball team?

MB: The best is 8-Ball, which belongs to our defensive specialist Sarah Hansen.

JB: My favorite nickname on the team is Sarah Hansen’s, which is 8-Ball.

Are you a regular book reader? If so, what is the title of the last book you read? What is your favorite all-time book?

MB: I wouldn’t say I am a regular book reader, but I do like to read when I have some time off or on long car rides to tournaments. The last book I read was “Fences” by August Wilson. I don’t think I have a favorite book of all time because all the books I read are very different so it is hard to compare them.

JB: I am not a regular book reader, but I try to read as often as I can. The last book I read was “Fences” by August Wilson for English class. My three favorite books are “Divergent,” “The Fault in Our Stars” and “The Hunger Games.”

What is the name of the last movie you saw in a theater? Did you view it with your sister?

MB: “Smallfoot.” I saw it with Hannah Phillips, who is an outside hitter for North Allegheny’s volleyball team, and Jiley came, too.

JB: “Smallfoot.” I saw it with my sister and my friend Hannah Phillips.

What is your favorite all-time movie?

MB: It would have to be “Legally Blonde.” It’s very funny, and it’s a classic.

JB: My favorite is “White Chicks,” because no matter how many times I watch it I still laugh every time.

What is something that people may not know about you?

MB: I used to Irish dance from the age of 5 to 13.

JB: I used to Irish dance and do gymnastics.

What has been your favorite summer vacation?

MB: Going to Miami last summer. There were lots of places we could walk to, and the beaches were super nice.

JB: In 2017, I went to Miami with my family and we went to the MLB Home Run Derby and All-Star Game.

What are three of your favorite foods?

MB: Ice cream, rice and pineapples.

JB: Burritos, pasta and pizza.

What is your favorite TV show?

MB: “The Flash.”

JB: “The Fosters.”

What is your favorite color?

MB: Purple.

JB: Yellow.

Ray Fisher is a freelance writer.


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