Underclassmen set to step into key roles for Franklin Regional girls volleyball

Monday, September 4, 2017 | 11:00 PM

Franklin Regional girls volleyball coach Mike Feorene isn't ready to forecast where his team will end up this season, but one thing he is certain about is that it is heading in the right direction.

The Panthers have only one senior, Julia Petrucci, but have a strong corps of underclassmen ready to step into bigger roles as they embark on a new season.

“I think the pieces are coming together,” Feorene said. “The biggest thing we have this year is depth. In the past we had like seven players and then a pretty big dropoff. Competition is everything. The girls are pushing each other.”

Petrucci, the setter, has been a starter since she was a freshman and is counted on as a leader.

“Your team is as good as your setter,” Feorene said. “The pressure is put on her, but with her experience she knows the game inside and out. I've also moved her into a hitting role. She's going to be one of the stronger hitters in our section. We've kind of changed it up a little bit from where she would set all around to getting her some hitting time also.

“We're a little thin on the experience, but with the way Julia runs an offense, she makes those less-experienced players better because she puts the ball right where it needs to be.”

Surrounding Petrucci will be a cast of underclassmen. Maddie Brietkreutz, a junior, will be a back row specialist. Rachel Reppermund, a junior, will play middle hitter along with sophomore Hannah Flick. Freshman Aly Kindleberger also could see time at middle hitter.

Feorene said there are a good amount of underclassmen who could push for court time. He isn't concerned about the lack of varsity experience some of his players have because many of them have plenty of reps playing club volleyball in the summer.

“We have nine juniors, and seven of them are playing club volleyball,” Feorene said. “They don't have the high school experience, but a lot of them have been playing since they were 12 years old. It's a lot different from when I played when once the season was over you didn't touch a ball again until the next season started.”

A key graduate from last year's team is Abby Kane, who is a libero at Gannon. To combat that loss in the back row, Feorene challenged his team in practice to improve its serve reception. An area of strength last year was its defense, and that's expected to continue this season.

“Our defense was one of the best defenses I've had since when I coached the boys team at Norwin,” Feorene said. “Our girls were diving all over the place last year, and I think that was picked up by the girls that are moving up. That will make us competitive against everybody else.”

Franklin Regional missed the postseason by one spot last year. The Panthers will look to break into the top four in Section 3-4A against Norwin, Penn-Trafford, Hempfield, Connellsville and Latrobe. Hempfield was a WPIAL semifinalist and a PIAA participant last year. The Panthers are wary of the difficulty of their section opponents but hope to surprise some.

“Everyone in our section competitive,” Feorene said. “They're all well coached teams. My girls are always the underdogs. I tell them that every year. There's nothing better than being an underdog when you're competing. We were in that situation a couple of times, and I thought we played pretty well with that mindset.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer.


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