The Greater Latrobe High School girls' volleyball team has dedicated the rest of its season to the memory of alumnus Joe Dado, who died in an accident in his first year at Penn State University.
"The girls met Tuesday morning [Sept. 22] and decided to play the rest of the season in his honor," Latrobe coach Jenny Feiertag said. "Most of the girls knew Joe and were very close to his sister. We pulled out of the WCCA [Westmoreland County Coaches Association] Tournament because they wanted to attend his funeral [on Saturday].
"The girls are wearing ribbons in their hair with Joe's name on it."
Latrobe concluded the first half of play in Section 1-AAA with Tuesday's 3-0 win against Hempfield. The Wildcats enter tonight's second half opener against Franklin Regional with a perfect 6-0 record.
"I have a great group of girls who worked very hard together during the summer," Feiertag said. "Arky Svetahor, a father of one of my girls, met with them three days a week. He set up a jump program, a weight-lifting program, and worked to improve their speed and agility."
Feiertag also received help from Latrobe's new football coach Ray Reitz.
"Ray went out of his way to help the girls with advice on weight lifting," Feiertag said. "The help we've received from Arky and Ray has shown up on the court. The girls are a lot stronger physically and are in better shape."
Latrobe entered the week ranked No. 8 in the WPIAL in Class AAA.
"If we can stay healthy during the second half of section play, I'm real confident that we can make a run at the WPIAL championship," Feiertag said. "The kids' goal is to qualify for states. It would be an incredible run for them and me if they were to reach that goal."
Feiertag is in her fifth year with Latrobe's volleyball program and second as head coach.
"I was Drew Vosefski's junior high coach and varsity assistant for three years prior to taking over as head coach last season," Feiertag said. "The juniors I have were seventh graders when I started with the program. Latrobe volleyball has come a long way over the past few years."
Latrobe had five players graduate from last year's Section 1-AAA champions.
"We lost five talented players, including three starters," Feiertag said. "Fortunately, the kids we have coming back have stepped into the picture."
Feiertag has five letter-winners returning, including Brittany Lhota, a 6-foot-2 senior middle hitter who has committed to the University of Pittsburgh. Lhota was voted a second-team WPIAL Class AAA All-Star last year.
"Brittany played basketball until her sophomore year," Feiertag said. "She quit basketball and decided to try volleyball. We had to teach her the basics that year. She didn't even know how to rotate. She played for the JV team as a sophomore, then moved up to the varsity last year. Now she's one of the best players in the WPIAL."
The other four returning letter-winners are 5-5 junior setter Kasey Feiertag, the coach's daughter, 5-5 junior libero Katie Svetahor, 5-5 senior outside hitter Kaley Burkhardt and 5-5 junior right-side hitter Courtney Stychula.
Feiertag uses an eight-player rotation that also includes 5-6 backup setter Allison Campbell, 5-10 freshman middle hitter April Krivoniak and 5-2 senior Kim Ciotti.
Other members of Latrobe's varsity are 5-9 senior outside hitter Cassie Neumeyer, 5-6 senior outside hitter Megan Nicely and 5-5 senior defensive specialist Ariel Hellein.