Bishop Canevin girls volleyball coach Kevin Walters believes the Crusaders have the talent and desire required to win the WPIAL Class A title ... but he would prefer that his team not be ranked No. 1.
"Not really," said Walters, when asked if he likes being the top-ranked team in Class A. "It's a nice honor, but there's a lot of pressure to stay there all season. It is what it is. We just have to keep working hard."
With four All-WPIAL Class A players returning from last year's squad, which placed second in the WPIAL, it was no surprise that Bishop Canevin was the preseason favorite. Walters' squad has done nothing to change those rankings during the opening month of the season.
Bishop Canevin finished the first half of play in Section 6 with a perfect 7-0 record, which includes Tuesday's 3-0 win against previously unbeaten Carlynton (6-1).
"I haven't seen any of the teams [near] us in the rankings," said Walters, when asked if his team should be ranked No. 1. "There are probably a handful of teams that are capable of winning the WPIAL title. It's a question of peaking at the right time."
One thing Bishop Canevin has in its favor is its experience in the WPIAL tournament.
"We've been to the WPIAL title match two of the past three years, but we're still looking for that first WPIAL title," Walters said. "The girls know what it takes to get that far. We just have to figure out how to take that next step and bring home the title."
Bishop Canevin's roster includes four girls who were recognized on the All-WPIAL Class A team. Ashley Grimm was voted to the first team, Bailey McDonald and Erin Cunningham were second-team picks, and Callie Jacobs was a third-team selection.
Grimm is a 5-foot-8 senior outside hitter and four-year starter. Jacobs, a 5-9 senior middle hitter, is a three-year starter.
"Ashley is one of the top players in Class A," Walters said. "She's our top hitter, but not our only hitter. Callie is one of the best middles in Class A. She can play all three front-row positions, but I like having her in the middle."
McDonald, a 5-10 setter/right-side hitter, and Cunningham, a 5-10 outside hitter, are both sophomores, which means both appeared on the All-WPIAL team as freshmen.
"Bailey and Erin were the only freshmen recognized on the WPIAL All-Star team last year," Walters said. "Both took on a lot of responsibility last year and had a great debut."
McDonald split the setting duties last year with Katie Oliverio, a four-year starter who graduated this past spring.
"We used a 6-2 offense last year," Walters said. "This year, we're using a 5-1 most of the time, but occasionally we switch to a 6-2."
When Walters switches to a 6-2 offense, Katie Gestiehr is the other setter. Gestiehr, a 5-4 senior, lettered last year as a back-up setter.
Bishop Canevin's starting rotation also includes 5-3 senior libero Sam Kelsch, 5-10 senior middle hitter Mary Hicks, 5-8 sophomore right-side hitter Julia Menosky and 5-3 senior defensive specialist Morgan Reisz. Kelsch is a returning starter. Hicks, Menosky, and Reisz are returning letter-winners.
Bishop Canevin opens the second half of section play tonight at Bentworth. The Crusaders have an 8-0 overall record, which includes non-conference victories against Chartiers Valley and Avonworth.
"I'm not a big fan of tournaments," Walters said. "We try to schedule non-section matches against quality opponents."
The Crusaders have matches scheduled with Obama Academy, South Fayette, and Montour. They also have a match scheduled with Knoch, but that may be cancelled due to SAT tests scheduled for the same day.
Walters is in his seventh year at Bishop Canevin and has led the Crusaders to six playoff berths. He also took North Catholic to the playoffs four times in five years, and Mars once. In 13 years of coaching, he's been to the playoffs 11 times.
First Published September 26, 2013 4:00 AM