Strong senior class, young players help Bishop Canevin volleyball 3-peat

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Thursday, November 7, 2019 | 8:06 PM


For the third season in a row, the Bishop Canevin girls volleyball team saw its season end abruptly in the first round of the PIAA Class A tournament. Bishop Carroll defeated the Crusaders in four sets last Tuesday.

But that’s not the way their season will be defined. This group captured Bishop Canevin’s third consecutive WPIAL championship, and the senior class will go down as the most successful in program history.

“The five seniors have kind of stuck together and been pretty good leaders on and off the court,” coach Kevin Walters said.

Sticking together, said one of those seniors, setter Maddie Maziarz, is what set this group apart. Maziarz and her classmates made sure each player, regardless of age or experience, felt like a part of the championship effort.

“This had to be the most amazing experience ever,” said Maziarz, a St. Francis (Pa.) recruit who accumulated more than 1,000 assists in her four seasons. “It’s the last one (for the seniors), but we put in the time and put in the extra work making us feel like a family unit on and off the court.”

Maziarz said the seniors would go out of their way to talk to the underclassmen — not just at practice but in the hallways at school. She and fellow senior Alexa Malloy, a Cal (Pa.) commit, also would offer to lead the players in prayer before each match. The team would stand in a circle, each with one hand on her heart and another around the shoulder of a teammate.

Their unifying efforts showed up in the youngsters’ play.

Of the eight Crusaders who were named first- or second-team all-section, four were underclassmen: junior outside hitter Gillian Golupski (first team); Maddie Maziarz’s sister, sophomore middle Abbie Maziarz (first team); freshman outside hitter Kyla Hartoyo (second team); and sophomore middle Olivia Thomas (second team).

The team’s other all-section players were Maziarz (first team), Malloy (first team), senior libero Hanna DeLisio (first team) and senior defensive specialist Ana Gallante (second team).

Defensive specialist/outside hitter Julia Balobeck is the fifth senior.

“(The underclassmen) had big shoes to fill going into it, and I’m sure they were very nervous,” Maddie Maziarz said. “But they did such a great job. I was so proud of them.”

On a more practical level, Walters said he saw the team develop its collective on-court skills. He and assistant Pete Barakat preached defense, consistent serving and serve receive.

But the Crusaders’ attack might have been their strong suit. Walters said as the season went along, the girls were more aggressive in going after kills.

“There’s a lot more attacking and not as much tipping and free balls,” he said.

As the seniors move on, it will be up to the younger players to try to win a fourth consecutive WPIAL title. Odds are the Crusaders will be in the mix again next season because Walters has built a program that reloads itself annually.

The three straight titles are part of a run of five in seven seasons. That’s what Walters envisioned when he took over 13 years ago.

“The program was decent but never getting over the hump,” he said. “I always tell the parents, ‘You have to buy into what we’re selling. Your daughters can play other sports and can do whatever else they want to do, but when we have open gyms or practice, they have to be there.’

“The programs that are good, that’s the thing they do.”

And, Maddie Maziarz said, the good programs have players who look out for each other.

“I just hope (the underclassmen) know how much we love and care for them,” she said. “That’s the key to making a team a team.”

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