Seniors help build foundation for upstart Redeemer Lutheran volleyball program

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Sunday, November 15, 2020 | 11:01 AM


Four years ago, Nathan Loewe started up a girls volleyball team at Redeemer Lutheran with a handful of players who had very limited experience with the sport.

After a couple of seasons filled with learning basic skills, the Rams found themselves on the doorstep of the final for their conference tournament.

Redeemer Lutheran, which had eight players on the team, lost 3-1 to Propel Montour in the semifinals of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Athletic Association playoffs Oct. 29.

The Rams (4-6) dropped a close first game, 25-23, but tied the match after winning the second game, 25-16. However, the Rams dropped the final two games, 25-23, 25-20.

“The attitude was different from the beginning. We were bump set hitting more than we had in previous years. They knew what they were doing,” Loewe said. “We got more creative with how we were practicing. We had a lot more confidence this year. We were in every match we played, which got more people excited about playing.”

Calvary Chapel ended up winning the SWPAA championship. The SWPAA consists of the Rams, Propel Montour, Calvary Chapel, Propel Braddock Hills, Neighborhood Academy and Nazareth Prep.

The Rams had two players named to the SWPAA all-conference team. Senior setter Mia Kefalos and senior outside hitter Kalee Thornton received the honors.

Both players were part of the original five who started the program four years ago. That was a club team that consisted of sixth to 10th graders.

“Kalee just has some natural talent. Mia made herself a volleyball player. She took what we’ve been teaching her, and she really applied it. This year was really a breakout year,” Loewe said. “Those two are the ones who got the program together. Mia was more determined and confident in her abilities.”

Loewe, who wears many hats at Redeemer Lutheran, asked his wife, Jennifer, to coach the Rams in the second and third years of the program. Jennifer Loewe, who has the volleyball playing background, put her fingerprints on the program as she worked to develop the skills of the players. However, Nathan Loewe took over again as the head coach this season.

The Rams swept their season series with Nazareth Prep and beat Propel Braddock Hills and Neighborhood Academy to tally their most wins, four, in program history.

During the season, the Rams volleyball program put their season on pause for a week and a half at one point as they were dealing with some players who were recovering from illnesses during these covid-heightened times.

With the suspension of this season, the Rams were forced to play some doubleheaders. Loewe noticed the difference in his team’s competitiveness in their doubleheader against Nazareth Prep as they gutted out two wins.

“We didn’t play all that well, but we found a way to win both times. We were down 2-1, and we came back to win 3-2. That wouldn’t have happened in previous years,” Loewe said. “If we were down 2-1, we would’ve tried to figure out where we were going to eat on the way home. It’s a testament to the seniors making plays, and they played their hearts out.”

Even with the departure of two of his best players, Loewe is optimistic that he will continue to see positive progression with the program for years to come.

“I think we proved that you don’t have to have a lot of experience,” Loewe said. “You just need to get out there and be willing to learn. We have a pretty good returning group that has played high school volleyball for two years.

“Mia and Kalee have played a lot of points in the last four years. We will look to fill in for them. It will put some pressure on people who aren’t used to it, but that’s a good thing.”

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