Shaler volleyball looks to continue success against new section opponents

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Sunday, September 25, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Annie Bozzo was pleased to have a fresh start when taking over the Shaler girls volleyball program.

The Titans, who lost six seniors from a team that finished 17-3 and made the PIAA Class 4A semifinals last season, were moved into a new section in realignment.

Instead of being in with traditional rival powerhouses North Allegheny, Seneca Valley and Pine-Richland, Shaler was moved out east in Section 3. To win a second straight section title — the Titans were co-champs with North Allegheny last season — Shaler will have to fend off Fox Chapel, Hempfield, Norwin and Penn-Trafford.

“It’s refreshing,” said Bozzo, who is in her first year as head coach. “North Allegheny is a tough program year after year. It’s nice to have a fresh start with me as head coach, but we still stacked our out-of-section matches. We still scheduled North Allegheny, Seneca Valley and Pine-Richland because we will see those teams in the playoffs.”

The Titans opened section play with a 3-2 win over Penn-Trafford last Wednesday, improving to 5-2 overall and 1-0 in section play. Shaler has already had to wrestle with some heartbreak early in the season.

The Titans lost junior outside hitter Hilary Quinn, one of the team’s captains, to a season-ending injury. Shaler was counting on Quinn to be one of its top hitters this season.

“She’s a dynamic, passionate player,” Bozzo said. “They fed off her energy and play.”

What Shaler has needed to do in order to fill Quinn’s space in the attack was shuffle the deck. Maddie Barr, who was originally destined to be a libero, has been asked to step in and hit more regularly.

For the high school team, Barr didn’t have a lot of experience in an attacking role.

“No, she’s always been a passer,” Bozzo said. “She has the best vertical, and the team and loves to jump in hitting drills in practice. She’s done a phenomenal job filling the role.”

Mackenzy Miller will be entrusted to do the setting for Shaler this season. The Titans are also hoping to see Claudia Clontz and Candice Kozej serve in major roles.

Shaler has shown its ability to battle during a 3-2 loss to former section rival Seneca Valley. The Titans were able to drag the match to five sets behind a balanced hitting effort.

Kozej led the team with 13 kills while Mackenzie Barr had nine and Maddie Barr finished with eight. Miller handed out 34 assists.

With most of its early nonsection schedule out of the way, Shaler is prepared to attack a new group of section foes. The Titans are hoping to bring their success from playing the brutal schedule of the northern suburbs to their new home in the east.

“We have to play aggressive, hard and confident,” Bozzo said. “We have strong offensive weapons. I think we did a good job of defending them and keeping the ball coming back at (Seneca Valley).”

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