Young Plum volleyball team showing fight

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Friday, September 6, 2019 | 8:04 PM


The Plum girls volleyball team lost the first two sets of its Section 3-AAAA opener against Norwin on Sept. 3.

Faced with a quick elimination, the Mustangs instead battled back, won the third set and were on the brink of a victory with a 23-20 lead in set four. But the Knights rallied to win the set 25-23 and take the match.

Coach Kelsey Bonk said the match, despite the result, was another positive sign that her young team — there’s only one senior on a roster of 21 — is making strides towards improving on last year’s 1-16 overall mark and 0-12 record in section play.

“I was proud of the way they continued to fight,” Bonk said. “That shows their resiliency. Five-game matches are marathons, but you have to look at each point as a sprint and focus on winning each sprint right in front of you. We made some lineup changes in the third and fourth set, and it worked well for us. I told them that the lineup could keep changing until we find out what works best.”

The team’s identity began to take shape at the start of preseason camp and progressed through scrimmages against teams such as Kiski Area and Penn-Trafford.

“It’s been a lot about finding out where the girls fit best in their roles and how they could have the best opportunity to succeed,” Bonk said.

Among the youth on the team, which includes seven letter winners among the junior class and two sophomores who earned letters as freshman, is junior do-everything performer Makayla Jackson.

The 6-foot Division I prospect is expected to do a little bit of everything for the team this year, Bonk said, from her hitting, to play in the back row and also some setting in the offensive attack.

“We’re kind of just building our offense around her, and the girls understand that,” Bonk said. “We want her to get a ton of touches. We want to get her as involved as possible for six rotations.”

A University of Miami (Fla.) assistant coach observed practice Sept. 2, and Jackson is paying a visit to the south Florida school this weekend.

“Her athletic ability isn’t matched by many in the WPIAL,” Bonk said. “When she’s on the court, everyone looks at her.”

Jackson also hopes to check out the Pitt women’s volleyball program in person soon.

“We have a pretty young team, but a lot of the young girls have stepped up, and that will help us throughout the season,” Jackson said.

Jackson and junior libero Julia Vargo are the team captains, and 6-1 junior middle blocker Jen Taylor also is a returning starter.

One of the main tasks heading into the season, Bonk said, was to settle on the setter position after both players at the spot were lost from last season.

Among those getting looks in the early part of the season have been freshman Samantha Glatz and sophomore returning letter winner Grace Thompson.

Other returning letter winners from the 2018 campaign are juniors Megan Bologna (outside hitter/right side), Megan Franzi (setter), Francesca Iervoline (outside hitter/right side) and Emma Muldowney (outside hitter/defensive specialist) and sophomore Caroline Hunter (outside hitter/right side).

Plum will be back in section action this week with matches at Connellsville on Tuesday and Latrobe at home on Thursday.

“The girls are excited for this season and being able to see how they have improved and how they can still get better,” Bonk said. “It’s still a work in progress.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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