Young Quaker Valley volleyball team gaining experience, momentum

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Sunday, September 26, 2021 | 11:01 AM


Quaker Valley is in the midst of a rebuilding project in girls volleyball this season.

The Quakers utilized five seniors in an eight-player rotation a year ago, leaving coach Mike Vavrek with three returning starters in 2021.

The veteran coach has been fashioning this year’s squad around seniors Anna Weisser, a 5-foot-5 libero; Elise Berry, a 5-10 middle hitter; and junior Kathryn Karwoski, a 5-7 outside hitter.

“We have a pretty young team so I am expecting this season to be one of growth,” Weisser said. “Because we’re so young, and this group of girls hasn’t been playing together for very long, a lot of our focus is on working to communicate with (each other) and trust.

“There has already been a lot of progress on these fronts and we are trusting that the skill will come with experience. We have been improving every game, so hopefully that trend continues.”

After a slow 0-4 start, the QV girls picked up the pace with a pair of 3-0 section wins, one Sept. 16 against Keystone Oaks and a second one Sept. 31 against Brentwood.

“Yes, we lost five starters to graduation, and all of them had started since they were sophomores,” Vavrek said. “Coming into the year, I knew we would be a very youthful team with not a lot of varsity experience. I knew we would need to play a lot during the summer to gain some experience and get some chemistry playing together.

“We did that, as we were involved in two summer leagues and a team camp. Our inexperience has shown over the early part of the season, but I think we have a rather high ceiling if we continue to grow. As always though, my expectations were for us to get better every day and compete in our section. As of now, I would say I have the same expectations.”

Quaker Valley is a member of Section 2-2A, which includes defending WPIAL champion and PIAA semifinalist North Catholic.

The Quakers ended up 5-5 in section play last year and were on the verge of securing a playoff berth, but were forced to sit out the postseason because of coronavirus exposure in the school district.

QV finished 5-7 overall, and was led by then-seniors and three-year starters Kayla Doherty, Maddie Hess and Camille Johnson, all-section selections at libero, outside hitter and middle hitter, respectively. Doherty also was named All-WPIAL.

The Quakers beat Keystone Oaks twice, Brentwood twice and Carlynton once. Their final two matches were canceled.

This season, the QV girls started out with section losses to North Catholic, Carlynton and Seton LaSalle, along with a nonsection loss to South Park.

The “under construction” squad is rebuilding with four seniors, three juniors, seven sophomores and seven freshmen.

Weisser and Berry serve as co-captains, and are joined in the lineup by a hard-working group that includes seniors Chanel Bosh (OH) and Ruby Hale (RS); juniors Shayna Cunnard (S), Hannah Lubert (DS) and Karwoski (OH); sophomores Annica Kagle (RS) and Katelyn Clark (MH/RS/OH); and freshmen Vanessa Pickett (S), Molly MacDonald (MH) and Nora Hammond (OH).

“I think our captains are doing a great job keeping this team positive and pushing the girls to work hard,” Vavrek said. “We are improving every day, but we still have a ways to go to get to where we want to be.

“As for starters, I run a lot of girls in the rotation and I’m still trying to figure out the best combinations.”

Weisser’s volleyball career began in seventh grade. She is a third-year starter at QV, and she also competes for Pittsburgh United.

“So, I’m playing year-round,” Weisser said. “I tend to fixate my efforts on school and volleyball, but I also play in the band at school and I’m pretty involved with volunteering at my church.”

Weisser carries a 4.4 GPA and takes her leadership role as a team captain seriously.

“Our coach always says there are two types of captains, those that lead by example and those that are vocal,” she said. “This year, it’s been evident that our team requires a vocal leader. The coaches made it clear to me from the season’s onset that keeping my spirits high was going to be really important for our success.

“Also, talking to the younger girls throughout games has been really important. I answer all the questions I can and make any effort to give advice when appropriate. I just try to be in-the-know and a presence on the court so I can help the other girls as much as possible.”

Vavrek is in his 11th season as coach at Quaker Valley, and 17th overall. He has a bright outlook for the Quakers, both this year and in the years to follow.

“We’ve had the freshmen and sophomores really step up to add some depth for us,” Vavrek said. “This freshman class is one of the most talented I have had at QV. To have three (freshman) girls seeing varsity time is something you don’t see often. And those two sophomores have also done a great job providing some offense for us.

“Now, at times we certainly look very inexperienced, and you can see the youthfulness in some of the mistakes we make, but we are learning and growing every day.”

Which is music to his ears.

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