Thomas Jefferson, Baldwin, Brentwood volleyball teams cap regular season
Sunday, October 24, 2021 | 11:01 AM
To say the players on the Thomas Jefferson girls volleyball team have clicked would be more than accurate.
The TJ girls cruised to the Section 3-3A title with an 11-0 record with one match remaining on their 2021 schedule.
“My early thoughts this season were that we were going to be a good team but needed time to find the best lineup and start meshing,” TJ coach Ron Kelly said. “We have been playing well.”
As of Oct. 19, the Jaguars were 15-1-1 overall and ranked No. 1 in the Trib HSSN weekly ranking.
“We have some quality out-of-section wins this season,” Kelly said. “We won the Derry tournament and finished second in the South Fayette tournament.”
Among the many key players in TJ’s starting rotation are the two Cates, senior setter Cate Chalovich and junior libero Cate Galioto.
Chalovich recently was named 3A player of the week.
“Cate Chalovich is a vocal leader,” Kelly said. “She was a returning starter and is an excellent student. She is in the National Honor Society.
“Cate Galiato is our best defensive player. She is having a great year.”
Two others instrumental to TJ’s success are Delaney Concannon, a junior outside hitter, and Julia Palmer, a senior defensive specialist Julia Palmer.
“Delaney was second-team All-WPIAL last year,” Kelly said. “She is having a great season. We lean on her for the big kills.
“Julia missed last year with an ACL injury and returned to play in September. She’s just an overall leader.”
Others in the Jaguars’ rotation include juniors Julia Territ (MH), Julie Berberich (S), Ava Territ (RS) and Emma Ratner (DS); and sophomores Eliah Lippincott (MH), Mia Fox (OH), Alexa Albein (S) and Rylie Sippey (RS).
“We have three other seniors, Kaylee Rehak (RS), Riley Patrick (DS) and Emma Radakovich (DS), that have worked hard,” Kelly said.
The Jaguars should land a top seed in the WPIAL tournament.
“I hope we play like we are capable and make a run,” Kelly said, “and qualify for the state playoffs.”
Coach Chris Kelly’s starting lineup this season usually was derived from a rotation of four seniors, three juniors, four sophomores and one freshman.
Returning letter winners at the start of the campaign included seniors Alexa Chapla (DS/OH), Heidi Johnston (MB/OH), Alayna Meis (DS) and Taylor Binek (DS); as well as juniors Kay Lindenfelser (OH), Emmalyn Longo (S) and Abby Truzzi (MB).
“We have a lot of young players on varsity this year,” Kelly said. “We did graduate 10 seniors. Our team leaders are our seniors. Although we didn’t have a lot of match experience (prior to the season), we definitely have some talent.
“While I can’t say I’m pleased with our record, I am very pleased with my team. We began the season with a lot of players in new roles or expanded roles. It took a while to settle into those roles. We’ve taken great strides in playing within ourselves and learning how to limit our mistakes.”
“We have strong defense this year, and a lot of new players,” Chapla said. ”During practices, we’ve worked on our ball control and communication skills to bring the team together.”
Baldwin is a member of Section 2-4A along with Bethel Park, Canon-McMillan, Moon, Mt. Lebanon, Peters Township and Upper St. Clair.
With one match remaining, the Highlanders were 3-8 in league play following a 3-0 win at home versus Peters Township.
“Next season should be a good one,” Kelly said. “We will lose four seniors, but we’ll have seven returning starters who will have had a lot of varsity playing time this season.
“That experience will serve them well heading into next season. They’ll start next season well ahead of where they were at the beginning of this year.”
Brentwood clinched a spot in the WPIAL Class 2A playoffs with a fourth-place finish in Section 2 behind North Catholic, Avonworth and Seton LaSalle.
“We worked very hard over the summer to prepare for preseason,” coach Kayla Hubsch said. “We knew going into this season that our competition was fierce, so we started to prepare in early May.
“We fell short of making it into the WPIAL playoffs last year; that was our goal for this year.”
Two senior leaders for the Spartans are outside hitter Paige Mortimore and defensive specialist Bella Grimm.
“Paige and Bella are players that every coach would want to have on their team,” Hubsch said. “They are hard working and constant contributors to our program.
“Paige is a great team leader. She rarely leaves the court. She works her hardest at every practice to perfect her skills and to motivate her teammates. Paige is the player to keep pushing and fighting, and motivating her teammates to do the same. Paige is always introducing new ideas to me and to her teammates.
“Bella is a team leader vocally and by example. She motivates by her hustle and energy. Bella is one of the hardest workers on our team, which sets a great example for the younger players. She rarely misses a practice and her presence makes a difference. She is the definition of a team player; she is passionate about athletics and always willing to help her teammates.”
Others in the team’s regular rotation this year included seniors Hannah Fornear (RS) and Ceci Foley (MH); juniors Olivia Trent (OH), Mackenzie Castiglione (libero) and Brianna Folino (S); plus freshman prospect Paige Boehm (MH).
“We are definitely in the toughest section in 2A,” Hubsch said. “We have No. 1 North Catholic, No. 2 Avonworth, and No. 5 Seton LaSalle all in our section. We are doing our best to stay competitive. We have a talented team even if our record does not necessarily reflect that.
“We’ve had to make a few lineup changes throughout the season to best support our team needs. Olivia Trent has made transitions from outside to middle and back to outside, depending on where the team needs her the most. Her versatility has been a huge help.”
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