Senior duo sparks Bethel Park volleyball team to successful season

Saturday, November 19, 2022 | 11:01 AM

Best friends Grace Lejeck and Sophie Puzausky proved to be a dynamic force for the Bethel Park girls volleyball team.

Lejeck, a 5-foot-10 senior outside hitter, and Puzausky, a 5-11 senior right-side hitter, were chosen second-team all-WPIAL and first-team all-section.

“Sophie and Grace both started since their freshman year. They have received many accolades throughout their four years with the Hawks,” coach Brooke Muraco said. “Both athletes are fierce competitors and hard workers in the gym. Sophie and Grace were outlets for our offense and always came through when we needed it the most. They were huge contributors to our success this year.

“Sophie’s arm was a huge offensive threat for us, and she also put up a nice block on the right side, which helped our defense tremendously. Grace was on fire the second half of the season and led the team in kills in many matches this year and ended the year with a solid performance on serve-receive.”

Along with her highly successful high school career, Lejeck has played for three club programs in the offseason — Pittsburgh Elite, Renaissance and Revolution.

“I feel we had a very strong season and got better as it went on,” Lejeck said. “In past seasons, we started to struggle as a team as the season went on, but I feel this season we played better. Even though it wasn’t the ending we hoped for, we grew close and worked together better than we did at the beginning of the season.”

Lejeck anticipates continuing her career at the next level.

“Playing Bethel Park volleyball for the past six years has really been an honor,” Lejeck said. “As the seniors played together, we became closer and closer as the seasons went on. It brought me some of my best friends.

“High school volleyball taught me so many valuable lessons that I will use throughout life. I will miss playing for coach Brooke and playing with my best friends day in and day out.”

Puzausky and Lejeck competed for Revolution Volleyball Club last offseason. Puzausky still is deciding about college but plans to pursue a career in aviation.

She offered a few thoughts about the Black Hawks season.

“I was very impressed with my team’s overall performance,” Puzausky said. “There were a couple spots that we needed filled from last year and a couple girls really stepped up. Once we got into our flow, we really worked as a team and had a ton of fun.

“My volleyball career at Bethel Park has been a wild ride, but it has been so much fun and taught me so much. You can really see how I have grown from starting varsity my freshman year to finishing it out my senior year. I owe everything to my teammates and my coach because they have made these past four years such an unforgettable part of my life. I’d like to thank every person that has been a part of my volleyball career. I wouldn’t trade them or the experiences I’ve had with them for the world.”

Bethel Park won three of its final four section matches and advanced to the postseason thanks to a 6-4 record in Section 2-4A. Peters Township and Canon-McMillan tied for first place at 9-1.

The eighth-seeded Black Hawks defeated No. 9 Norwin, 3-2, winning by scores of 25-21, 21-25, 25-22, 21-25, 15-13, in the first round before losing a 3-0 decision to No. 1 North Allegheny in the quarterfinals.

The Black Hawks finished 10-6 overall.

“I think overall we had a good season,” Muraco said. “We fought through a lot of competitive games that ended closely.”

Lejeck and Puzausky were joined in their team’s starting rotation by seniors Mia Gerber (OH), Maura Lavelle (MH), Abby Neal (MH) and Elaine DeLallo (DS); juniors Gabby Gealey (setter) and Brooke Kessler (DS); and sophomore setter Cassidy Sullivan.

Essa George, a junior outside hitter, also assumed a starting role in BP’s final match against North Allegheny due to a teammate’s injury.

“She played poised and exceptional,” Muraco said.

Bethel Park was a veteran squad in 2022 with eight seniors and three juniors. Three other all-section selections were Neal and Gealey, both second team, and DeLallo (honorable mention).

“We are losing a lot of seasoned players,” Muraco said, “so it will be an opportunity for some younger girls to step into leadership roles early on and make an impact on the court.

“I look for Essa George and Gabby Gealey to be people to look out for on our roster next year.”


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