Victory over Derry helps bolster Gateway boys volleyball team’s resume

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Sunday, April 30, 2023 | 11:01 AM


The Gateway boys volleyball team toppled Armstrong and Deer Lakes to open Section 2-2A play, but consecutive section setbacks to Latrobe and Mars left the Gators at .500 in section and seeking a return to the win column.

The Gators got that in the form of a 3-1 win over Derry April 24 at Gateway’s Furrie Sports Complex.

“That win was a big one for us to say the very least,” Gateway coach Phil Randolph said.

“Anyone who’s been around volleyball in this area knows that (Derry coach) Shawn (Spencer’s) guys will always be ready for a slugfest, and that’s exactly what we had on the court last Monday. The play on both sides was fast and intense throughout the evening, and I couldn’t be prouder of my boys for keeping up their end of the speed throughout the match.

“When we were going into the fourth set, we talked about the importance of playing to win, which is not the same as playing not to lose, and the guys played to win that night. The confidence boost was critical and timely. While we relished in the immediate joy of the win, we talked afterwards about distinguishing between confidence and arrogance. Anything that we want will need to be earned throughout the rest of the season.”

Gateway hoped to earn a second victory over Derry in three days as the teams were to play again (April 27) at Derry.

Monday’s matchup with the Trojans was rescheduled from earlier in the month.

Gateway also was to host Armstrong on Tuesday in a rematch of a 3-1 Gators win April 5.

The Gators improved to 3-2 with the win over Derry and trailed Latrobe (5-0) and Mars (4-1) in the section standings.

The Wildcats were No. 1 in the Western Pennsylvania Coaches Association rankings for WPIAL Class 2A released April 24. It is a position they’ve held since the preseason.

Gateway hoped to take down Latrobe on April 13, but the Wildcats prevailed 3-0 to remain undefeated. It also was the Gators’ first loss of the season. They had started 5-0 overall.

“The Latrobe match was a little frustrating for all parties involved,” Randolph said.

“Part of what makes finding success against a squad like Latrobe tough is that there aren’t a ton of physical points in which you can readily identify weaknesses or avenues to exploit. We came out ready for a dogfight, and we had one on our hands at first. After we forced Latrobe into a timeout late in the first set, they came back with their speed dialed up, and we couldn’t keep pace at their speed. After the match, I asked the boys to plant a chip on their shoulders for when they see these guys again.”

Gateway will host Latrobe on May 9.

The Gators went back and forth with Mars on April 18, but the Planets prevailed, 3-2.

Gateway won the first set 25-20, and Mars outlasted the Gators, 25-23, in the second set.

The Planets ruled set three, 25-16, before Gateway rallied to win set four, 25-23, to force a deciding fifth set.

Mars was too much for the Gators in that final set and closed out the match, 15-8.

“That was a tough pill to swallow, particularly coming off the loss to Latrobe,” Randolph said.

“A few days earlier, we had played and beaten Mars in the playoffs at the Seneca Valley tournament and returned some guys that played key roles when we swept them last season.

“Going into the match, the boys were getting frustrated that teams that we got the better of in our last meetings were continually being given more respect in the coaches’ polls, and they were eager to prove that our name should be more prominently featured on that list. Just like last season, Mars is a tough, scrappy group that never quits working and can turn momentum quickly in their favor. We are itching to get back into the gym with them, and I am sure that our next meeting (May 10) at their place will be one that gives the fans their money’s worth.”

Tuesday’s match with Armstrong also was to mark senior night, and Randolph said it is right to celebrate Noah Passalinqua and Andre Williams for their contributions to the team.

“Both are terrific young men on and off the court,” Randolph said.

“They are the types of guys whom any coach would want to build a program around. They are hungry to be better with each passing day, and they are committed to the necessity of year-round time in the gym. They are active leaders through words and actions, and they are eager to offer advice and tips to the young guys in order to ensure the program here is one that continues to grow after their time as a Gator has come and gone.”

Randolph said the stretch run to a playoff berth will be a challenging one, starting with Armstrong and then at Deer Lakes on Thursday.

“Not a day goes by that we don’t talk about or plan for something coming the next time we see each of these squads,” Randolph said.

“We’re still going six days a week for a reason. We want to prove that our spot at the head of the table last year (as section champion) wasn’t a fluke or because other teams had an off year. We were there because we earned it.”

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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