Thomas Jefferson volleyball in midst of another successful season

Friday, October 11, 2019 | 5:29 PM

Thomas Jefferson is closing in on its eighth consecutive section championship in girls volleyball.

The Jaguars host rival Elizabeth Forward on Thursday, Oct. 17 in their final regular-season match in their new home gym and with the Section 3-AAA title at stake.

The TJ girls also will host their annual Pink Out event for the benefit of breast cancer awareness and research.

There is a large group of 10 seniors in the Jaguars program. They are defensive specialists Jenna Kisner, Bella Regna, Julia Putignano and Anna Janosko, outside hitters Kaitlyn Urbanowicz and Ashleigh Haines, middle hitters Natasha Yanief and Tyler Turk, setter Abby Chalovich and libero Tanner Patrick.

Proceeds from the Pink Out fundraiser will go to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

“Our Pink Out event is always extremely successful,” Patrick said. “This year, one of our team moms got us pink scrunchies for the game. We also have our Pink Out socks to wear.

“We really look forward to this night because it is dedicated to our community and even our parents.”

TJ, which finished as the WPIAL runner-up in 2018, ended last week in first place in the section with a 12-0 record, soaring past section foes Ringgold and Yough.

The TJ girls also won two tournaments earlier in the season. The Jaguars were ranked No. 2 in Class AAA last week by the Western Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association.

“After losing some great players last year, I’m impressed with our team’s ability to bounce back and really hammer our competition,” Patrick said. “We have also been successful in the tournaments. The first was at Derry. There were good teams there. We lost only one set to Norwin, which was a very good team and really tested our abilities. However, we ended up beating them later in the playoffs and played EF in the championship. EF is our biggest section rival, so beating them was an awesome accomplishment for us.

“In the South Fayette tournament, we ended up defeating Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in the finals. We beat South Fayette in the semifinals, which was an outstanding match.”

TJ’s starting rotation consists of Yanief, Chalovich, freshman defensive specialist Cate Galioto, Haines, sophomore outside hitter Julia Palmer, junior defensive specialist/right side hitter Claire Whalen, Turk, junior right side hitter Lily Rockwell and Patrick.

The TJ girls, who tied for first with Laurel Highlands last season, are shooting for their 10th section title in 11 years. The Jaguars have won 87 of 90 section matches over the past seven seasons.

“I am very proud of how our team has played,” Chalovich said. “However, I don’t think our team has reached our full potential yet. We still have room to improve and will continue to practice and get better to get ready for playoffs.”

Along with having a successful fundraiser, the Jaguars tonight are hoping to remain undefeated in their new state-of-the-art gym.

“Playing in the new gym is great,” Patrick said. “What makes it even better is our advanced technology. Our tech teachers, Mr. (Matt) Betler and Mr. (Kenneth) Gruntz, and some students from their classes, worked to create awesome animations for our games.

“Everyone has worked so hard to finally be in this gym and make it as amazing as it can be. We are so happy to be making history in our new school.”

Chalovich concurred.

“Our team is so excited to finally be in the new gym,” she said. “It is a vast improvement from the gym at the old school. We love seeing our fans from the community and our friends come to support us in the new gym.”


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