With sustained success, Shaler boys volleyball sheds underdog label

Sunday, March 26, 2023 | 11:01 AM

Zac Wurzer isn’t disappointed that the Shaler boys volleyball team can’t hide behind its previous identity as scrappy underdogs.

The Titans have become a perennial contender for WPIAL and state success. What will be different this season is the Titans will carry the expectations that come with sustained success.

Shaler is the top-ranked team in the state coaches poll and is ranked ninth nationally by the USA Today poll.

“It’s a good learning experience,” said Wurzer, a 5-foot-11 outside hitter. “We are definitely not the underdogs this year. Being seen as the top team brings a lot of pressure with the recognition. We want to prove we were meant for that type of role.”

Last season, Shaler finished 14-6 and advanced to the second round of the PIAA playoffs before falling to eventual state champion North Allegheny.

The Titans know they will be tested early and often. North Allegheny, which is the five-time defending state champion, and Seneca Valley, another perennial state challenger, are once again in Shaler’s section.

The Titans also went and found some difficult nonsection matches as well. Shaler opened the season with matches against Norwin and Penn-Trafford.

Titans coach Paul Stadelman said he was unaware the program was ranked so high by the USA Today until his players told him. What Stadelman wants to keep the team focused on is how to find the right style of play to challenge for titles.

One of the Titans’ biggest advantages is that they have a lot of players who can do multiple things.

“They work hard and play for each other,” Stadelman said. “They are versatile and comfortable playing multiple positions. They have a high volleyball IQ. We have a lot of good pieces. We just need to make sure we are moving the chess pieces in the right place.”

Joey Gannon, a 6-1 outside hitter, knows Shaler has versatile players. Gannon said he believes that everyone will be on board for whatever needs to be done.

“I think we all have respect for each other that if we are asked to play a different position, it won’t affect our egos,” Gannon said. “We will need to adjust to who we play.”

Logan Peterson, a 6-3 outside hitter, and Dante Palombo, a 6-3 middle blocker, are returning all-state selections for the Titans. Shaler will have two players, Peyton Planz and Zach Rosenwald, who will do the majority of the setting. Defensive specialist Cam Miller will also be counted on to fill a key role.

Everyone involved is hoping to keep pushing the Titans forward.

Shaler knows the expectations are high and aren’t shying away from the chase.

“It’s going to take hard work and being prepared for any task,” Wurzer said. “We can’t let a team do something better than us. We need to have the same mental attitude and preparation.”


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