Senior Spotlight: Avonworth football standout enjoyed one-year run with OLSH volleyball

Tuesday, June 2, 2020 | 6:15 PM

Editor’s note: Each day, Trib HSSN will spotlight WPIAL spring athletes whose senior years were cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.

In between a record-setting year for the Avonworth football team this past fall and a football future at Division III Bowdoin College in Maine, Jake Horigan hoped to make his mark one final time on the OLSH boys volleyball co-op.

The way things were shaping up in March before all high school spring seasons were canceled, Horigan, who also garnered volleyball interest from Division I schools such as Sacred Heart and Princeton, was on the right track.

Already a member of the A-10 club volleyball team, Horigan, who plans to major in biochemistry at Bowdoin with a pre-med track, played at the high school level for the first time in 2019. Players from Avonworth and OLSH came together to make a run to the WPIAL Class AA semifinals.

A loss to Derry in the third-place consolation match denied the Chargers a spot in the PIAA tournament.

OLSH finished as Section 1 co-champions with Class AA power and 2019 WPIAL champion Ambridge.

Horigan, a 6-foot-2 outside hitter who also put his power on display as a middle linebacker in football, earned individual volleyball honors after last season with selection to the All-WPIAL second team.

With several players from last year’s Chargers team returning, OLSH hoped to repeat as section champion and take another shot at a WPIAL title and a trip to states.

How was WPIAL Class AA boys volleyball shaping up this season?

It was going to be interesting. Derry, Ambridge and Seton (La Salle) had lost some players, but they had some good ones back. I think it was going to be anyone’s game to win the championship. It was going to be exciting.

Do you feel OLSH had a good chance to make some noise?

Last year, we had a good team. The chemistry between the players (from Avonworth and OLSH) had to start from scratch with the trust and communication on the court. We improved a lot throughout the season. We returned a lot of guys for this season, and everyone got better. We felt good about our chances to do well at WPIALs and get to states.

Did you have a lot of personal optimism for a good season before everything was canceled? What drove that optimism?

I had gotten used to the different style of play in high school as compared to club. I was confident with my role with the team, and I knew that this year had the potential to be special.

How tough was it to be so close to earning a trip to states?

We played Seton La Salle the first or second game of the year before we had any chemistry and really knew what we were doing. From the first time we lost, we really wanted to get them back in the semifinals, but we didn’t end up doing that. It wasn’t so much Derry (in the consolation finals) as it was the semifinals that hurt, knowing we were a couple of games away from the WPIAL championship match. We really used (the WPIAL playoffs) as motivation coming back this year.

The number 13 is often deemed unlucky. What was the reason for choosing No. 13 for volleyball?

I was No. 3 in football since my sophomore year, but coming to OLSH for volleyball, (All-WPIAL selection) Andrew Schnarre, a senior, was wearing No. 3. The coach was like, ‘No, you aren’t taking that number.’ So, 13 was the next best thing.”

What is your best memory of playing volleyball at OLSH?

In our second game last year against Ambridge, for the section championship, it was down to the final point, and our libero, Sig Saftner, accidentally bumped the ball over the net. He scored the point, and we won the game and the match. He tried to pass the ball, but he hit it to the side where no one was standing. Everyone was expecting a pass. It was just a crazy celebration after that. That was a really good bonding moment for the team.

Who is an individual volleyball player you most enjoyed going up against in your lone high school season?

I would say (all-state outside hitter) Liam Buck from Ambridge. He was in our section. There was a lot of talk about him. He’s going D-I to a top 10 program (Lewis University). Their whole team is really good, and playing them twice was a lot of fun.

What is your best overall memory as a sports fan?

It has to be the Steelers’ Super Bowl win against the Cardinals. As a kid in Pittsburgh, that was one of those great all-time moments. It was just a great game.

What made Bowdoin the right college home for you?

I liked Bowdoin a lot, and I knew I wanted to play football. I was talking to what felt like a million colleges for football and volleyball trying to figure out what I wanted to do. It came down to what college suited me the best for academics, and it was a good fit for football, too.

Do you have a job right now or do you have one lined up for the summer?

More recently, to make some quick cash, I’ve been mulching for my friend’s company and also cutting some grass for other people. I just want to keep busy. I hope to continue that into the summer, managing that with all of my (football) weightlifting and running. I hoped to coach with my (A-10) club team this summer, but then all the coronavirus stuff happened.

What are you looking to improve on before your freshman season at Bowdoin?

At Avonworth, I played every defensive position in high school except defensive tackle. I am going to Bowdoin as a defensive athlete, and I will play wherever they put me. I’ve just been working on my body overall. I’ve gotten faster, and I am at a really good playing weight (195 pounds). I’ve been able to control what I can control with workouts and learning the playbook. I am really excited.

What sport that has canceled competitions – college, pro or otherwise – do you miss the most?

There is nothing better than playoff hockey. I’ve loved watching the Pens a lot in the playoffs, and it’s weird to not have that over the last month or so. That has hurt. It is nice to see that (the NHL) has a plan and a base for some type of playoffs. I’m happy to see they are planning something.

What is something that people might not know about you?

I like fishing a lot and doing stuff outdoors. Most recently, I went on a fishing trip with a friend and his uncle to Lake Erie. I like going there a lot.

Do you play an instrument? If not, is there one you would be interested in playing?

Everyone in my family can play a million different instruments and sing except for me and my mom. But I probably would want to learn how to play guitar.

If you could pick anyone to give a commencement speech, who would it be and why?

Jordan Rapp, the other middle linebacker at Avonworth. He’s one of the best guys I know. On the football field, he’s a maniac, but he’s rather reserved and quiet otherwise. I would be curious to see him open up. I think he would have some good things to say. I would want to hear his two cents.

If you were asked to give a speech, what advice would you give to underclassmen?

I would say just try different things. Never think that just because someone says something is weird, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Take the opportunity to try new stuff and see what you like.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at or via Twitter .

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