Young St. Joseph girls volleyball team building toward future

Monday, September 6, 2021 | 1:17 PM

Because the covid-19 pandemic delayed fall sports in 2020, the St. Joseph girls volleyball team had one practice and went right into games. Needless to say, a more normal schedule this year was welcomed.

The Spartans got some summer work in and had about three weeks of open gyms, and that extra practice time is even more important than normal given how young the team is.

St. Joseph has 20 freshmen and sophomores out of the 30 girls who came out for the team.

Some of them are playing volleyball for the first time or are learning a new system the Spartans will play, so having a regular preseason schedule has been important.

“We have a process,” St. Joseph coach Dennis Jones said. “We’re working on skills. We want to be competitive, but we’re hoping we can develop our young group and, in a year or two, they will help us become much more competitive than we have the last few years.

”It’ll be a struggle early on, but we’re way ahead of last year, that’s for sure.”

The Spartans graduated nine seniors from last year’s team but have some experienced players to help guide the younger players.

Stella Swanson, a senior outside hitter, was a second-team all-section performer last year. Setter Gabby Mason also returns, and she will be joined by another senior, setter Sabrina Quattrocchi, a transfer from Shaler. Quattrocchi didn’t play at Shaler but plays club volleyball at Pitt Elite and brings some much-needed experience to the setter position.

Another senior, Lacy Zagurskie, returns at outside hitter.

Many of the younger players are in the process of learning the system, and the four returners are helping expedite that process.

“The first couple weeks we started by teaching them our six-two rotation that has two setters, and everybody else just rotates,” Swanson said. “I feel like they’ve adapted well to that. We’ve done our best to get to know everyone on the team and make them feel comfortable by supporting them.”

Jones said Swanson is the leader of the team, and Quattrocchi has seen that first hand.

“I have to thank Stella, because even though I’m more experienced at volleyball, I’m new here, and she’s made me feel right at home,” Quattrocchi said. “That made it easier to work well with the team, have fun and play volleyball. Even though some of these girls aren’t as experienced, they are working hard. In a lot of ways, we’re a different team than when we started a few weeks ago.”

Aside from getting back into the routine of a normal volleyball season, the Spartans also are excited about the return of fans after crowd restrictions left many gyms mostly empty last fall.

“That helps a lot,” Swanson said. “Any voices cheering you on are great. Last year we just had ourselves.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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