With new coach, Hempfield volleyball team back on top

Sunday, September 29, 2019 | 5:17 PM

Sometimes, teams endure growing pains while adjusting to a new coach.

That doesn’t apply to Hempfield’s girls volleyball team. The Spartans adapted quickly under Michelle Pergar, who coached previously at Albert Gallatin and Laurel Highlands. Hempfield finished the first half of Section 3-AAAA play with a 5-1 record.

“I think she has been really good so far,” senior Mekayla Dedo said. “I think a lot of us have taken a liking to her. She brought some new things to our program, and they’ve worked.”

Bringing everyone together quickly was Pergar’s goal once she was hired.

“It helped that I was able to work with them in the summer when we had open gyms and lifting,” she said. “We went to a team camp at Cal U, and that helped the transition for them to get to know me and for me to know them. We got a lot of one-on-one time.

“I am very proud of the girls and what they’ve been able to accomplish so far. I am still pushing them to do better and to keep up the hard work and communication. They are a well-oiled machine as long as they keep the excitement up and keep themselves motivated. I think they can do big things this season.”

Having some veteran players back from last season’s team that shared the section title with Latrobe and Norwin helped, too. Dedo, who will play volleyball at the United States Air Force Academy, leads the way.

“I am really excited to work with them this year,” Pergar said. “Coming in as a new coach, trying to figure out what works and getting used to your style, it can be a challenge. I think we vibe well, and we have a strong bond. I think it’ll continue the rest of the season, too.”

Seniors Tara Jablonsky, Peydon Linsenbigler, Delaney O’Shea, Olivia Persin, Morgan Podkul and Dedo and juniors Hannah Barth, Bella Gera and Maura Ushock are in the team’s rotation.

“With this team, there are a lot of girls who are able to play multiple positions. I’ve been able to switch a couple people around, and it hasn’t been a problem,” Pergar said. “These girls have a really close bond. Teams may have their moments where they bicker and fight, but this team is like sisters through and through. They had a tight family feeling.”

Offensively, Dedo leads the way at the net.

“I think we’ve gotten better at a lot of things we struggled with at the beginning of the season,” Dedo said. “I think our hitting is our biggest strength. I think we are good at hitting around the block and smart with where we place it.”

Pergar has been impressed with the team’s hustle, too.

“We have some really good defensive players. We have some strong hitters, but their defense is very good. They definitely do not quit on balls,” she said. “They serve tough, too. We see a high percentage of strong serves. They just work really well together.”

The Spartans hope it all equates to another title in a competitive section.

“All the teams are pretty much equal. Anybody could win on any night,” Dedo said. “It’s just whoever shows up to play that night is really what matters.”

If Hempfield reaches the WPIAL tournament, it hopes to get past the first round. Shaler handed the team a 3-1 defeat in last season’s postseason opener.

“As long as we keep pushing, I think we’ll be good to go,” Dedo said.

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.


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