Aug. 25—The Saegertown volleyball team may have surprised some teams last year. There will be no surprises this year.
The Panthers were bumped up from Class 1A to 2A last year and played in Region 3 with teams that Saegertown traditionally didn't play regularly. Being the new team on the block and the smallest by enrollment in the region, teams may have overlooked Saegertown.
Saegertown responded by going undefeated in its region schedule and securing a region title. The Panthers finished the year 13-2 overall.
"With so little varsity experience in the lineup last year and a so-called 'new' coach, very few saw us as region contenders. Well, by winning the region and going undefeated in it, the girls definitely proved themselves," Saegertown head coach Justyn Greco said. "We grew up a lot last year and we are hoping to continue that growth/success right on into this season."
Saegertown beat Harbor Creek in five sets in the playoffs before losing to Corry in five sets in the district semifinal round. The Panthers graduated two seniors from last year's team and return most of their roster.
Returning starters from last year are Lindsey Greco (setter), Alyssa Arblaster (outside hitter), Maggie Triola (outside hitter), Brywn McLaughlin (middle hitter), Lyndzee Amory (middle hitter) and Rylie Braymer (libero).
"I think this core group of players will definitely play significant roles in our success this year. I expect big things from them," Greco said. "They have a whole year of varsity experience under their belt, along with some playoff experience to go along with it."
Other returning players Greco expects to play a role are Kacie Mook (defensive specialist), Abby Rockwell (defensive specialist), Rhiannon paris (outside hitter/opposite), Lindsey Weaver (defensive specialist), Paige Smith (middle hitter/opposite) and Lauren Wright (defensive specialist/outside hitter).
"One major difference that stands out between this year's team and last year's (besides being more experienced) is our depth. This is a very competitive bunch of girls. Almost every girl on my varsity roster plays more than one sport," Greco said. "This speaks volumes. They aren't sitting around in the offseason. They're playing other sports, staying in shape and making themselves better as athletes.
"They push each other. It is a great feeling for a coach to know that if someone is not performing, I have someone else who can step in."
Greco's expectations for the Panthers is to be very competitive and aim for another region title.
"Obviously, another region title is a goal of ours, but we also know that everyone is "gunning" for us," Greco said. "Everyone will be playing their best ball against us. I think the surprise factor is definitely gone."
Region opponents for Saegertown include Sharpsville, Slippery Rock, Greenville, Franklin, Reynolds, Sharon, Wilmington, Titusville, Oil City and Mercer. Non-region matches on the schedule are against Seneca, Mercyhurst Prep, General McLane and Fort LeBoeuf.
Alex Topor can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.