The Peters Township High School boys volleyball team has already achieved one first this season and has another in its sights.
"Prior to this season, our program had never won a regular-season tournament," said Indians coach Chris Kelly, now in his seventh season. "It was quite a thrill for the kids to win the Fox Chapel Tournament.
"And what stands out with me is that we beat three teams ranked ahead of us in the WPIAL rankings. We beat Plum, 2-0, in the second round of pool play, then beat Bethel Park and Penn-Trafford, both 1-0, in the playoff rounds."
Peters Township posted a 25-21 victory against Bethel Park in the semifinals, then recorded a 25-22 win against Penn-Trafford in the title match.
"I know it was only one game against both teams, but it was significant for us," Kelly said. "Winning that tournament was a big step for our program."
Peters Township needs a section victory against Bethel Park to take the program's next big step. The Indians are 7-1 in Class AAA Section 1 play after defeating Central Catholic, 3-0, Tuesday. Bethel Park leads the section standings with a 7-0 record.
"We've never won a section title," Kelly said. "We have a chance to reach that goal, but we must go unbeaten in the second half of section play."
To go unbeaten in the second half, Peters Township must beat Bethel Park.
"We lost, 3-1, the first time we met Bethel Park," Kelly said. "But we were without Gabe Pritz. The match came during our Easter break and Gabe was out of town with his family."
The rematch is tonight, as the Indians travel to Bethel Park with hopes of earning a tie for the section title with the defending champs.
"It's our biggest match of the season, by far," Kelly said. "We have a chance to grab a share of first place in the section. And we should be at full strength this time around."
Bethel Park is ranked No. 4 in the WPIAL in Class AAA, while Peters is No. 7.
"I thought coming into the season that we could be pretty good," Kelly said. "This has turned out to be the best team I've ever coached."
Pritz, a 6-foot-5 senior outside hitter, has been voted All-WPIAL Class AAA the past two years. He was voted to the second team as a sophomore and to the first team last season. He was also a standout for the Indians basketball squad.
"Gabe is going to Penn State and [plans to] walk on to the basketball team," Kelly said. "He had a scholarship offer to play volleyball at St. Francis University [in Loretto], but turned it down. He's good enough to play Division I volleyball, but wants to play basketball. He's got to be one of the top three players in the WPIAL."
Pritz is one of five seniors in Kelly's 10-man starting rotation. The others are 6-4 middle hitter Clayton Edwards, 6-2 outside hitter Danny Scheurle, 6-3 opposite Jake Wilhelm and 5-7 defensive specialist Neil Harrison. All five are returning lettermen.
"Clayton suffered a concussion halfway through last season and didn't play in the second half," Kelly said. "Jake was hampered by a knee injury last year."
Christian Fink, a 5-5 junior libero, and Xander Browell, a 6-2 junior middle hitter, are also returning starters.
"Christian is the best libero in our section. I can't say enough good things about him," Kelly said.
Matt Neky, a 5-7 junior defensive specialist, is also a returning lettermen.
The two newcomers to Peters Township's starting rotation are 5-10 junior setter Shawn McNally and 5-8 junior back-row specialist Aaron Ranallo.