North Xtra: Fox Chapel volleyball in hunt for section title

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It's not often that a high school sports team is referred to as both experienced and young.

Fox Chapel Area's boys volleyball team is an exception.

Fox Chapel had only three seniors on last year's squad, and none were starters. The Foxes have seven starters back from last year's squad, which qualified for the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs.

"We have a lot of experienced players back from last year, but we're still a young team," Fox Chapel coach Phil O'Keeffe said. "Only three players who lettered last year are seniors."

Fox Chapel's top player is Josh Tublin, a 6-foot senior who was voted second-team All-WPIAL Class AAA last season.

"We used Josh as an outside hitter/defensive specialist last year and at the start of this season," O'Keeffe said. "Three weeks ago, we switched him to libero because we're pretty deep at outside hitter. We haven't used him at defensive specialist since."

Tublin has accepted a scholarship offer to Ohio State University. His brother, Dan, is a redshirt sophomore at Stanford University.

"Josh is a three-year starter," O'Keeffe said. "He's the sole captain of our team."

The other two seniors who are returning starters are Matt Schrenk, a 6-1 outside hitter, and Griffen Burke, a 5-10 setter.

"Matt has been starting on and off. Consistency has been an issue, but he played his best match of the year in our last match, against Seneca Valley," O'Keeffe said. "Griffen has been our backup setter this year and did a great job filling in during our last match."

Max DePellegrini, a 5-10 sophomore, is the starting setter.

"Max is doing a fantastic job," O'Keeffe said. "He split time at setter last year. Max has started in every match, except for last week's Seneca Valley match. He was out with a back injury. Overall, he's doing a fantastic job."

Max is one of three DePellegrini's on the team. Ben, a 5-10 sophomore outside hitter, is his twin brother. Darrin DePellegrini, a 6-2 sophomore outside hitter, is a cousin.

"Ben needs to grow a little bit to be more effective on the outside, but he's been our best passer the past few matches," O'Keeffe said. "Darrin lettered last year and is now seeing a lot more action."

Tublin also has a brother on the team, Andrew, a 6-3 sophomore outside hitter.

"Andrew sat out all of last season with a back injury," O'Keeffe said. "He's healthy this year and is really starting to blossom."

Michael Eisner, a 6-1 junior opposite, has been the top hitter.

"Michael has been on fire the past three weeks," O'Keeffe said. "His skill level and presence on the court has improved significantly since last season."

Jaysen Zaleski, a 6-2 sophomore, and Matt D'Amico, a 6-1, junior, return as middle hitters.

"Jaysen jumps out of the gym. He got off to a slow start, but has been hitting fantastic the past four or five matches," O'Keeffe said. "Matt is a very good basketball player who is getting looks from D-1 and D-2 colleges [for basketball]."

The other three members of the varsity squad are 6-2 sophomore opposite Matt Herrmann, 5-10 senior defensive specialist Brian Boyd and 5-9 senior defensive specialist Steven Schwartz.

"Matt is a our backup on the right side," O'Keeffe said. "His only issue is that he's behind Eisner. He would be starting on quite a few other teams."

After defeating Pine-Richland, 3-2, Tuesday Fox Chapel has a 9-1 record in Section 2, a half-game behind unbeaten North Allegheny (9-0). The Foxes are ranked No. 3 in WPIAL Class AAA and have clinched a playoff berth. Six-time defending champion North Allegheny is ranked No. 1, while Penn-Trafford is No. 2.

"I'm very pleased with the way we've played thus far," O'Keeffe said. "We have to continue playing with this intensity in the second half, especially in our second match with NA."

Fox Chapel plays host to North Allegheny tonight.

"This is the best North Allegheny team I've seen in a while," O'Keeffe said. "Our goal is to win a WPIAL title and to reach that goal, we must beat North Allegheny."

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