Fourteen of fifteen, and counting.
The Elizabeth Forward girls volleyball team has qualified for the WPIAL playoffs 14 of the past 15 years, including the past six years.
The Warriors advanced to the WPIAL Class AA quarterfinals last season before dropping a 3-0 decision to eventual runner-up Hopewell. Coach Lindsay (Konias) Lesofsky has all but three starters back from that squad, including two All-WPIAL performers.
"We only had three seniors on last year's squad," said Lesofsky, now in her eighth season. "All three were starters, but having such a small senior class allowed us to use quite a few juniors and sophomores. Those girls are now seniors and juniors and they know what it takes to get to the playoffs."
Elizabeth Forward got an early taste of playoff volleyball on Aug. 31 at the Big South Labor Day Classic at Chartiers Valley High School. The Warriors claimed their second consecutive Big South Classic title with a 2-1 victory against Thomas Jefferson in the title match.
"It was the second year in a row that we played Thomas Jefferson in the title match," Lesofsky said. "It's a preview of the race for the Section 7 title."
The Warriors and Jaguars met twice in section play last year and split, thus sharing the Section 7 title.
"When you consider both teams have a lot of experienced players back, I think it's safe to say that our two matches with Thomas Jefferson will play a big part in deciding the section champion," Lesofsky said."
The co-champs play Tuesday at Elizabeth Forward, with the rematch coming Oct. 10 at Thomas Jefferson.
"I expect both matches to be very close," Lesofsky said. "I wouldn't be surprised to see both go to five games."
Elizabeth Forward and Thomas Jefferson were two of eight teams entered in the Big South Classic. Both won their preliminary pool and both posted victories in the semifinals.
In the title match, the Warriors excelled in Game 1 with a 25-17 victory. The Jaguars rallied to tie the match with a dominating 25-14 victory, but the Warriors came back to capture the title with a 15-11 victory.
"I'm very pleased with the girls [tournament] performance," Lesofsky said. "We fell behind a few times, but came back every time."
Elizabeth Forward is led by seniors Hannah Saunders and Corri Waters. Saunders is a 5-foot-10 setter, while Waters is a 6-0 middle hitter. Both were voted second-team All-WPIAL last year. Both were also voted to Saturday's Big South all-tournament team.
"Both Hannah and Corri play club ball," Lesofsky said. "It's nice to have two players of their caliber back."
Saunders and Waters are among 10 players who saw significant action during the tournament. The only newcomer to the lineup was Angela Grace, a 5-6 junior back-row specialist.
"Angela stepped up and played well in her first varsity action."
Other seniors in Elizabeth Forward's starting rotation are 5-7 outside hitter Shayne Watson, 5-7 outside hitter Lisa Filippelli, 5-4 libero Mikayla Ambler and 5-4 defensive specialist Lara Pasko. All four were either starters or lettermen last year.
The other juniors in the Warriors rotation are 5-6 opposite Kattie Goettel, 5-7 middle/right-side hitter Angela Shriane and 5-6 middle hitter Kelsey Benedek.
"I would like to think that we have one of the top five teams in the WPIAL," Lesofsky said. "We have the talent and experience required to take that next step by advancing to the semifinals and maybe more."
Elizabeth Forward opened its section schedule last week with a victory against Southmoreland. The Warriors were scheduled to play Yough Wednesday night.
First Published September 12, 2013 4:00 AM