Senior-heavy Deer Lakes boys volleyball aims to compete in talent-laden section

Monday, April 17, 2023 | 10:44 AM

Even with a senior-laden lineup, Deer Lakes boys volleyball coach Kody Putirka considers his Lancers squad a work in progress.

“We have a lot of seniors, and we’re trying to get them on the same page and playing to where I know they can,” Putirka said. “We have a lot of work to do, but the season is long. We’ll figure it out.”

Putirka is in his second season as head coach after serving as a boys assistant and the girls junior varsity coach. A 2013 Deer Lakes graduate, he was a member of the Lancers’ Class 2A state championship team in 2011.

“I know what it takes, and the kids know what it takes,” he said. “We just need to jell as a team.”

The Lancers’ deep, senior contingent consists of setter Kyle Penn, libero Ben Barker and hitters Sawyer Hadlum, Evan Frank, Mason Metzler, Evan Rothrauff, Ryan Sandor and Aydan Laughery.

Hadlum and Penn serve as the team’s co-captains. Putirka counts on the 6-foot Penn to quarterback the team from his setter position.

“Kyle dictates where the ball goes and is always working to get his butt to the ball and make good decisions on who to set,” he said.

Putirka noted that Hadlum suffered an ankle injury in practice and is expected to miss significant playing time. The Lancers are looking for juniors Christian Dietrich and Danny McCloskey to replace Hadlum at middle hitter.

“It’s unfortunate that Sawyer is out,” Putirka said. “He was looking forward to the season and doing some good things.

“I’m thinking he could be back for the last two games, hopefully before then. It depends on how well his physical therapy goes.”

Putirka described the Lancers as a scrappy defensive team, with the ability to put the ball away on offense when given the opportunity. He expects the top hitters to be the 6-3 Sandor, 5-11 Rothrauff and 6-4 junior Blake Gornick.

“They are our big hitters,” he said. “In key times, that’s who we’ll be getting the ball to.”

Last season, Deer Lakes qualified for the WPIAL Class 2A playoffs as the 12th seed. The Lancers were swept by fifth-seeded Ambridge, 3-0, in their opening match.

For 2023, Deer Lakes is in Section 2-2A competing against Armstrong, Derry, Gateway, Latrobe and Mars.

“There’s definitely a lot of talent in our section,” Putirka said. “We have so many different teams that are well rounded and can compete with anyone.”

Putirka tabbed Latrobe as the section favorite.

“Latrobe is the powerhouse in our section,” he said. “Derry has a strong team coming back — same with Gateway. Armstrong is new to our section and has a solid team as well.”

Deer Lakes hosts Derry in section play Tuesday.


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