Repeat bid begins for WPIAL champion Pine-Richland girls volleyball

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Sunday, September 3, 2023 | 11:01 AM


Pine-Richland girls volleyball coach Angela Seman told the Rams they should be happy and proud of themselves for winning the WPIAL championship last year, but now they need to move forward.

It’s a new year and a new team, and the defending champions are champing at the bit to prove they belong again.

“We have to work just as hard as we did last year and not be OK with just one title,” Seman said. “I’m just trying to get them to understand that just because we did it last year doesn’t mean we will do it again this year unless we work hard and prove that we can.”

Four-year starter and All-WPIAL outside hitter Kaili Doctor graduated and is now at North Carolina A&T, but the Rams return some major contributors from last season’s championship team.

Both starting setters Isabelle Hoppe (sophomore) and Sofia Morse (senior) are back and were named team captains.

“They’ve earned it and have worked hard for it,” Seman said. “One of them is always on the court.”

Kaylee Oglan, a senior, was mainly a right side hitter last year but will move to her more natural position of outside hitter.

Sophomore Megan DeKunder is back at libero and senior Sydney Servagno will be a defensive specialist.

Seman is excited about her middle hitters, 5-foot-11 sophomore Valerie Menke and 5-10 freshman Piper Vogel. They both bring a power element from the middle of the net.

“Piper is physical on the net,” Seman said. “Valerie got in for us last year. Her older sister (Sophia) was our starting middle last year, so she’s grown up around the game. We put her in some tough situations last year and she came from just dressing on varsity to really earning a starting spot.”

One wrinkle to the 2023 season is that Pine-Richland’s renovation project on the high school gym is still ongoing. The plan is for the new gym to be ready to start hosting games in October.

In the meantime, the Rams will be road warriors.

They’ll have only two home games against nonsection foes, Moon and Mars, in September and both will be hosted in the middle school gym.

The Rams will play their entire first slate of Section 1-4A games with North Allegheny, Butler, Seneca Valley and North Hills on the road. Nonsection road games to start the year include Penn-Trafford, Canon-McMillan, Upper St. Clair and Bethel Park.

Three of the four WPIAL Class 4A semifinalists last year came from Section 1. Pine-Richland played North Allegheny four times last year. The Rams beat the Tigers in the WPIAL final, but lost to them in the state semifinal. The Rams beat Seneca Valley in the WPIAL semifinals.

Seman feels having a road-heavy start won’t be a burden, because they bounced around a lot during the summer.

“With the high school gym being renovated, we were in the two middle school gyms, and one day we’d be in one gym and then the next we’d be in the other, so we’ve become accustomed to playing in whatever environment we need to,” Seman said. “I think that has made us adaptable to different situations, and that will help us in the long run when we play so much on the road at the beginning of the season. We just make any gym we’re in our home gym.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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