South Xtra: Bethel girls get revenge on court

HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL

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The Bethel Park girls volleyball team got just what it wanted at Saturday's Upper St. Clair tournament.

The Black Hawks won the 12-team tournament title and also gained revenge in the championship game.

"The girls were hoping for a rematch with Hempfield," Bethel Park coach Shawn Palmer said. "And that's just what we got. And it came in the championship match. We couldn't have asked for a better scenario to avenge our loss to them."

Bethel Park's first match-up with Hempfield came at the Shaler tournament on Sept. 7. The Black Hawks lost two of three games to the Spartans, including a narrow loss in the one-game championship match.

"It was disappointing to get that far and fall short of winning the title," Palmer said. "But I was very pleased with how the girls played in such a strong tournament. There were quite a few teams in the Class AAA and AA rankings at that tournament."

Bethel Park turned in an almost flawless performance Saturday at Upper St. Clair. The Black Hawks won eight of nine games in the preliminary round robin, with their only loss coming to Canon-McMillan after they had clinched first place in their pool.

In the playoff round, Bethel Park recorded a 25-8 win against South Park in the quarterfinals, and a 25-13 victory against Canon-McMillan in the semifinals.

Hempfield countered with wins against North Hills, 25-12, and Baldwin, 25-22. That set up the rematch in the title game.

"The kids are starting to see what we are capable of," said Palmer, after the Black Hawks posted a 25-21 win in the title game.

It was appropriate that Stacey Kazalas recorded the final kill.

Kazalas is a 5-foot-10 senior outside hitter who was recognized a second-team All-WPIAL Class AAA player last year. She leads Bethel Park with a 4.5 kills per game average, and has a hitting percentage of 38.6.

"Stacey is our big gun," Palmer said. "She's a three-year starter and one of the top outside hitters in the WPIAL."

Kazalas is one of five seniors on Bethel Park's varsity squad. Four are returning starters and the fifth is a transfer from California.

The other three returning starters are 5-8 setter Kaileigh Poe, 6-1 middle hitter Sami Simpson and 5-5 defensive specialist Morgan Stelmaszynski. Poe averages 8.9 assists per game. Simpson averages 1.2 blocks per game and has a hitting percentage of 35.3.

"Kaileigh is our court general," Palmer said. "She does a great job of running our 5-1 offense."

The transfer from California is Hannah Gleeson, a 6-0 right-side hitter.

"Hannah has added a good block on the right side," Palmer said. "She's been a solid player and a good addition to our squad."

Juniors Tayler Mannarino and Sarah Storino are also returning starters. Mannarino is a 5-10 middle hitter, while Storino is a 5-2 libero.

"Sarah is a three-year starter," Palmer said. "She was a setter her freshman year, a defensive specialist last year, and now this year she's settled in at libero."

Palmer uses an eight-player rotation that also includes Olivia Schank, a 5-8 junior outside hitter.

Bethel Park entered the week No. 4 in the WPIAL Class AAA rankings. The Black Hawks are the only unbeaten team in Section 5. They have a 4-0 record following Tuesday's 3-0 victory against Moon Area.

"Our section, from top to bottom, is the strongest of the Class AAA sections," Palmer said.

Bethel Park qualified for the WPIAL playoffs last season, Palmer's first as head coach, ending a six-year playoff drought.

"North Allegheny is the class of the WPIAL when you consider the returning players and experience they have," Palmer said. "After that we have a group of teams that are very closely matched, and we're one of those teams."

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