Thomas Jefferson girls volleyball caps season in PIAA semifinals

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Sunday, November 20, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Thomas Jefferson’s girls volleyball team placed third in the WPIAL Class 3A playoffs, earning a berth in the PIAA tournament.

The TJ netters, seeded No. 4 in the WPIAL, defeated No. 13 Indiana and No. 5 Montour by 3-1 scores before losing to top-seeded North Catholic, 3-0, in the semifinal round.

The Trojans went on to capture the WPIAL championship.

Thomas Jefferson returned to the PIAA tournament for the first time since 2019. The Jaguars defeated DuBois in the first round that year and advanced to the quarterfinals.

This year’s section champion TJ team rallied past District 9 winner DuBois, 3-2, on Nov. 8 in the first round of the state playoffs. The Jaguars then eliminated Conneaut, 3-1, on Nov. 12 to become the first TJ girls volleyball team to reach the PIAA Final Four.

“So far, we’ve played well,” TJ coach Ron Kelly said following the two PIAA wins. “North Catholic was not our best match (in the WPIAL playoffs) but the rest of the games we are playing well. We’ve played at a high level all year both in matches and tournaments.”

North Catholic defeated Thomas Jefferson in four sets Nov. 15 in the PIAA 3A semifinals at Fox Chapel. The Jaguars jumped out to an early lead but eventually lost by scores of 20-25, 25-19, 27-25, 25-14 to end up 19-3 overall.

TJ’s starting rotation remained the same as it has been for most of the second half of the season, comprised of outside hitters Delaney Concannon, a 5-foot-10 senior, and Ava Territ, a 5-8 senior; middle hitters Julia Territ, a 5-8 senior, and Eliah Lippincott, a 5-10 junior; Riley Sippey and Mia Fox, both 5-11 junior right-side hitters; Julia Berberich, a 5-7 senior setter; Cate Galioto, a 5-1 senior libero, and defensive specialist Emma Ratner, a 5-6 senior, and Tirli Ambercrombie, a 5-3 junior.

“I believe our team is very determined and has been throughout the season,” Lippincott said. “We play best when we work as a team. When we splinter, that is when our team struggles the most.”

Who were the players that initiated the impressive comeback against DuBois?

“Honestly, it was all the girls,” Kelly said. “We started to serve and pass better which elevated the rest of our game. We just took control in the middle of the fourth set.”

Galioto, Delaney and Julia Territ have been varsity players for four years. The highly energetic Galioto started as a defensive specialist as a freshman and has played the libero position the past three seasons.

This season, Thomas Jefferson won its 10th section title in the past 11 years, and 18th overall under Kelly.

“Going into the WPIAL playoffs, we knew 3A was loaded,” Concannon said. “There were a lot of great teams spread out between all the sections. Unfortunately, section play doesn’t really prepare you (all the time) for WPIALs. We came across a very good North Catholic team, which has a great track record in WPIALs.

“High school volleyball has been nothing short of spectacular for me. I have a ton of memories between club and high school and developed friendships that will last a lifetime.”

Vozar, Martinis, Sinclair, Supp, Atkinson, Lamenza and Della Lucia all were named all-section.

Vozar, Lamenza named All-WPIAL in girls soccer

It was a banner season for both Thomas Jefferson soccer teams in 2022.

And their similarities are somewhat uncanny.

TJ’s girls team won the Section 2-3A title with a 13-1 record and finished 17-3 overall. The Jaguars took a nine-game winning streak into the WPIAL playoffs where they edged West Allegheny, 1-0, and lost to Latrobe, 3-0, in the quarterfinals.

“I was pleased with the way the team played and grew together. The girls worked hard,” TJ coach Sean Richter said. “We got to play different teams this season and got a very good look at what the next level of play looks like at the top of 3A.

“I really look forward to next season. Our returning varsity team are all playing in cup programs so will be training and just getting better. We will still have a young roster with lots of depth. It will be very interesting to see how the players return and where they plug in to the roster. It was nice to do something this season but that is not the goal. We need to be consistent, and I believe next year we can come out and compete at a high level.”

TJ’s starting lineup this fall consisted of senior GK Abby Akinson, senior F Emma Martinis, senior MF/D Jordan Sinclair, junior F Natalie Lamenza, sophomore F Ashlynn Fry, junior D Sierra Frisoli, sophomore midfielder Olivia Della Lucia, junior MF Katie Sukal, freshman F/MF Sami Magliocco, senior MF/D Olivia Supp and senior MF/D Bella Vozar.

Vozar, Martinis and Sinclair were four-year starters.

Vozar and Lamenza were chosen All-WPIAL. Both also were on a season-long “watch list” for the Moe Rosensteel Most Outstanding Player of the Year award.

“This year, I think the team did a great job staying motivated and trying to improve each game,” Vozar said. “We also didn’t let bad games get the best of us and have been able to just learn and move on from them.

“This is also the most hard-working group I’ve played with throughout high school.”

Vozar plans to continue her soccer career at American University in Washington D.C.

“I chose American University mainly because of the coaching staff,” Vozar said. “They are a newer coaching staff trying to build something super special that I’m thrilled to be a part of. I also love my future teammates as well as the D.C. area.”

Orlando reels in postseason accolades

Thomas Jefferson’s boys soccer team also finished 17-3 and 13-1 in Section 3-3A.

“Overall, this season was a success,” coach Michael “Doc” Kulish said. “Winning our second consecutive section title, which hasn’t been done since 2001-02, graduating 13 seniors from last year’s team, six or seven which were starters, a lot of (opponents) did not expect too much from us this year. We had a lot of underclassmen step up and provide a spark for us.”

Junior forward and team captain Anthony Orlando led the Jaguars offensively with 26 goals. Orlando was named All-WPIAL, Section 3 Player of the Year, all-section and was voted the team’s offensive player of the year by his teammates.

“Last year was Anthony’s first year back playing soccer after playing football for a few years. I know some of the football coaches were sorry to see him leave, but boy am I happy to have him on the team,” Kulish said. “After working hard last year and this past offseason, Anthony came into this season very motivated and determined to be an offensive threat. And did he ever deliver, leading the team in goals and being one of the top goal scorers in triple A.

“Anthony is a strong, fast and physical threat on the field. This was a breakout season for him, which was recognized by his teammates and other coaches throughout the WPIAL. With this recognition comes added pressure for him next year. I believe Anthony will use this pressure to motivate himself to work hard this offseason and be an even greater offensive threat for the team next year.”

Andre Bekavac was a senior captain and midfielder. He also was voted all-WPIAL and all-section and received the Senior Excellence Award from the United Coaches Association.

Robbie Shoemaker, another senior captain who played defense, earned all-section honors and was voted the team’s defensive player by his teammates.

Two other all-section selections for the Jaguars were sophomore forward Jake Shoemaker and junior midfielder Nate Powell.

Daniel Fitzgerald, a senior defenseman, landed the Coaches Award.

“The outlook for next year’s team is very good,” said Kulish, who was voted Section 3 Coach of the Year for a second consecutive season. “Graduating only five seniors, two of which were starters, we have a solid core of players coming back led by Anthony Orlando.”

TJ’s junior varsity team posted an undefeated record for the second consecutive season and was sparked by freshman MF Owen Householder (top offensive player), sophomore Kolten Smith (top defensive player) and junior GK Nick Ditmore (Coaches Award).

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