Riverview girls volleyball learning from early season setbacks

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Saturday, September 26, 2020 | 11:01 AM


Lauren Dugan isn’t taking any of her volleyball practices or matches for granted this fall.

The Riverview senior middle hitter said the uncertainty of whether there would be a season because of the ongoing pandemic was a real concern.

When the PIAA gave all fall sports teams the green light to prepare and play their seasons, it was a relief to Dugan and her teammates.

“I feel as if this chance to play one last season, no matter what’s going on around us, has given the seniors a sense of normalcy,” she said. “I am so thankful to have not lost out on our last high school season.”

Riverview faced a challenging start to its season with Section 4 matches against Leechburg, Trinity Christian, Apollo-Ridge and Greensburg Central Catholic. GCC and Leechburg were playoff qualifiers in 2019.

The Raiders were not able to score victories in those matches, but they were able to take a game from Leechburg, Apollo-Ridge and Trinity Christian.

“After every game, the girls are able to reflect on what was good and what needs improvement,” second-year coach Samantha Taylor said. “Practices have been working around those areas of improvement. The girls were not happy with the start, but they used it as fuel to push them more at practice.

“I am working with a group of girls who have a goal in mind. They want to better themselves. They want to push one another. I am very excited to see the comeback the team makes.”

The Raiders will welcome Leechburg on Tuesday in a rematch of the season opener.

“Although not starting the way we wanted to, the team is putting those matches behind us and using them to learn about what we need to focus on,” said Katie Zatawski, a senior right side hitter. “We’re excited and ready to turn the season around and win games.”

Riverview is hoping to make a run at a second straight trip to the WPIAL Class A playoffs. The Raiders finished 7-7 in Section 4 play last year and earned the fourth and final postseason berth from the section.

The offseason began with the task of replacing a couple of key starters, including four-year starter and all-section first-team setter Aleah Walendziewicz as well as all-section middle hitter Alivia Schulteis.

“With the restrictions that were provided to us, the girls were still able to practice throughout the summer,” Taylor said. “This preseason, we did more volleyball work at a local park at the sand courts. The girls enjoyed the change-up of environment and the challenges that playing in the sand brought.”

Taylor said she liked the way the team banded together, led by Dugan and Zatawski and fellow returning starters in seniors Lizza Novikova (libero) and Alexis Sykes (outside hitter).

Novikova and Zatawski also earned all-conference honors last season. Novikova, Zatawski and Sykes are this year’s team captains.

Taylor also continues to look for big things in the rotation from senior Miya Tominello.

A sixth senior, right side hitter Sydney Wilson, returned to the team after not playing last season.

“This team is scrappy,” Taylor said. “We aren’t the tallest, but this doesn’t seem to faze the girls. They worked in the offseason to better their verticals, arm speed and foot speed. I have been working with this group of girls now for three years. They know my expectations. They want to improve every day, and that is something I am beyond proud of them for. I love the positivity and friendship these girls have with one another.”

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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