With senior-loaded lineup, Thomas Jefferson in position to claim another section title

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Sunday, September 24, 2023 | 11:01 AM


Thomas Jefferson has won 25 section titles in girls volleyball in school history.

The Jaguars are well on their way to No. 26 this season thanks to a fast start in Section 3-3A.

They are seeking their third straight section crown and 11th in the past 12 seasons. TJ was the WPIAL champion in 2001.

“We have played some good volleyball,” coach Ron Kelly said. “We are still trying to find the best lineup and put that together. Our blocking and serving is this team’s strength right now. We are working on our serve-receive and speeding up our offense. I believe if we compete to our level, we will be a strong team.

“Every year we want to win our section, do well in the playoffs and qualify for states. I’m hoping we continue to improve and make some noise this year.”

TJ advanced to the semifinals of the WPIAL and PIAA Class 3A playoffs last season, as WPIAL champion North Catholic was its chief nemesis.

TJ defeated Indiana and Montour by 3-1 scores before losing to North Catholic, 3-0, in the WPIAL semifinal round. The Jaguars defeated DuBois, 3-2, and Conneaut, 3-1, in the PIAA tournament before seeing their season end with a 3-1 loss to NC in the PIAA semifinals.

The Jaguars ended up 19-3 overall after winning the Section 3-3A championship with an unblemished 14-0 record.

TJ was ranked third in the state in 3A in the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association 2023 preseason rankings behind Pope John Paul II of District 1 and Hampton.

The Jaguars also were ranked third in the WPIAL in 3A by PVCA behind Hampton and North Catholic and fourth in 3A by the Western Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association behind Hampton, North Catholic and Oakland Catholic.

Half of this year’s 20-player TJ squad is seniors, led by outside hitter and team captain Mia Fox, an all-WPIAL selection as a junior.

“Our team has a ton of talent with a deep lineup and continues to showcase growth,” Fox said. “We continue to grow through every practice and each game we play. With our increasing cohesiveness as a team, I am excited to see the level of success we can achieve.”

Fox has a 4.3 GPA and is a member of the National Honor Society along with the National French and National Business honor societies. Her other extracurricular activities include AP Humanities and TJ vs. Cancer.

“I’m confident we can win our section as we have a lot of experience,” Fox said about this year’s group of players at TJ. “Our team is capable of making it far in the WPIAL playoffs and in states.”

Fox anchored an all-senior starting lineup in September that also included setter Alexa Albin, libero Tirli Abercrombie, outside hitters Rylie Sippey and McKenna Haggerty and middle hitters Gabby Breisinger and Eliah Lippincott.

Fox, Albin, Abercrombie, Sippey and Lippincott also were starters last year. Fox and Lippincott were first-team all-section selections; Sippey was named to the second team.

“I think so far we’ve done pretty good,” said Lippincott in mid-September. “We lost six seniors last year who were all large assets of the team. It definitely took away some of the strength we had, but numerous people are stepping it up to fill those spots.”

Lippincott and her teammates are looking to make a strong playoff run again in 2023.

“I have high expectations,” she said. “I feel like we should make it far in playoffs. I’m just trying to stretch the season out as long as I can for my senior year.”

Fox, who stands 5-foot-11, Sippey (6-0), Breisinger (6-0), Haggerty (5-10) and Lippincott (5-9) have proven to be dominating at the net area with their height advantage on most opponents.

“Our net play is strong,” Kelly said, “but I believe we will get better.”

The second wave of players in the TJ rotation consists of juniors Ally Chalovich (OH) and Myla Evans (S) and senior S/OH Charlotte Rockwell.

Leading reserves include seniors Abby Ondo (OH) and Bailey Spell (DS), juniors Olivia Virgin (OH) and Olivia Stock (DS), juniors Mia Costa (OH), Rachel Laing (OH) and Reese Lawry (DS), sophomores Chase Turk (MH) and Hannah Stewart (MH), and freshman Sophia Janosko (L).

Since 2000, TJ has reeled in 19 of a possible 23 section championships.

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