South Fayette, Chartiers Valley have pieces in place to return to volleyball playoffs

Sunday, September 20, 2020 | 11:01 AM

After a delay of a couple of weeks, the 2020 WPIAL girls volleyball season has begun.

A pair of local Class AAA teams that reached the playoffs last year entered this season with great expectations.

South Fayette was the Section 2-AAA champion a year ago. The Lions reached the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals before falling to Thomas Jefferson, 3-1.

The team qualified for the state playoffs but lost to WPIAL champion Knoch in the PIAA opening round in three games.

“The circumstances that we are currently under have created a much different feel to this season than other ones,” South Fayette coach Scott Sundgren said. “I think the girls are excited they have the opportunity to play. While I believe that the previous season provides motivation, the players know that this is a new season and they have to perform.”

Two key players returning this season for South Fayette are senior setter Izzy Franjione and senior outside hitter Lilah Speca.

“(Franjione) is an outstanding player who will provide a solid foundation for our offense,” Sundgren said. “(Speca) plays all around and will be pivotal in the performance and leadership of our team.”

Others to watch include seniors Rachel Phoennik, Liv Foreman and Joelle Farah and juniors Kaylin Goldstrohm, Haley Nicholson and Annika Henkel.

“I’ve been very happy with the progress that our team has made in the short time frame we’ve had to prepare,” Sundgren said. “We are fortunate to play in a strong section that provides us with excellent competition each match.”

After making the Class AAA playoffs last season before losing in the quarterfinals, Chartiers Valley has a new coach. Amanda Burgess takes over the program after four years as a Colts assistant coach.

“We have a very young varsity team, but they are a great group of girls with a lot of skill,” Burgess said. “This year (with covid-19) is continuously changing, but the athletes have been very adaptable and we are thankful we get to play this season.”

The Colts will rely on the play of seniors Katelyn Campbell (OH), Abby Copeland (DS), Paige Cousley (DS) and Mia Giammatteo (OH), junior setter Sommer Komar and freshman setter Sarah Harris.

Volleyball has been a tougher start-up then the other fall sports because of the indoor factor while all of the other sports are outdoors.

“The 25-person indoor limit changed how we run the season a lot,” Burgess said. “Luckily our athletic department is amazing and we are thankful for all the support they have provided us. Our athletes are just excited to play, so we are doing everything in our power to give them the enjoyable and healthy season they deserve.”

Sundgren feels the changes this fall have been minimal, and they’ve tried to move forward as smoothly as possible.

“The only thing we’ve done is put the emphasis on playing and coming together as a unit,” he said. “Having lost the summer, we lost the opportunity for league play. So I feel that the players will benefit from more time in the game.”

Realignment has both South Fayette and Chartiers Valley in Section 2-AAA, along with Montour, Ringgold, Trinity, West Allegheny and West Mifflin.

“We have a great group of coaches (in the section) that truly care about the girls and continue to push them to play at their best ability,” Burgess said. “I wouldn’t expect anything less this season.”

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