Volleyball team has a season of constant improvement


Tom Rekowski

Shaler Area and Seneca Valley battle on the volleyball court.

Mia Schubert

After the disappointment of a canceled season in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Shaler Area Boys Volleyball Team brought extra drive and enthusiasm to the court in 2021. The Titans began their pre-season with tough training and hard work, but came up short in their first match against North Allegheny on April 2, losing 0-3.

That didn’t stop Head Coach Paul Stadelman from pushing his team of young, somewhat inexperienced players to battle through each and every match this season. With 18 years experience of coaching boys volleyball, Stadelman has faced challenges before, but with the lost 2020 season, 12 senior who graduated last year, and ongoing COVID-19 protocols, he faced one monumental challenge.

“Covid and quarantine affected our season in many ways,” junior Dom Rossi, an outside hitter, said. “We had starters that had to quarantine at different times and who lost a lot of practice due to it.”

“I don’t think there was much continuity in the season, and we constantly had people in and out of the lineup,” said Stadelman.

Still the team played on. In the next three matches, they battled against and fell to Butler, Fox Chapel, and Seneca Valley, which was the low point of their season, according to Coach Stadelman.

“I think inexperience can be difficult to overcome when games get intense, but we handled that with composure,” Stadelman said.

Not having a freshman season and then competing as a sophomore for the first time in high school felt odd for outside hitter Joey Gannon.

“It felt strange,” he said.  “It was completely new and different from anything I had ever experienced.”

The middle of the season represented a turning point when the boys competed in the Hempfield tournament and brought home the championship.

“We started off slow and then came on strong the second half of the day and went undefeated to win it,” Stadelman said , who noted that the competition was strong with quite a few teams who would eventually make the playoffs. “It was a good confidence booster going into the second half of the season,” he added.

The boys took that confidence and swept North Hills at home, 3-0.

“When we are all super motivated and hyped up, we play unbeatable and the energy we play with is unmatchable,” Gannon said.

The boys finished section play with a record of 5-7 and headed into playoffs ranked fifth in their section. As the eleventh seed in the WPIAL tournament, Shaler Boys defeated sixth seed Peters Township in the first round of playoffs, 3-0, and prepared for a match-up against Penn-Trafford.

The team had overcome so many season challenges and remained focused on their strengths.

“Our strength was depth. We had lots of guys that could step in and play that were pretty equal to the starters,” Stadelman said.

On May 20 the team faced off with Penn-Trafford and battled hard, but ultimately lost the quarterfinal in three sets. While the loss ended the 2021 season for Shaler Area boys volleyball, it hardly represented the team that fought tirelessly to overcome challenges and turn their slow-start season into a more winning one.

“The factor that contributed to our success this season was our ability to compete,” said Rossi, who was named AAA Player of the Week this year. “Even though we did not have much experience, we were in every game we played, and we set a good standard for the start of 2022.”