South Xtra: Key addition helps Lebo win AAA title

VOLLEYBALL

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Rachael Amoroso didn't know what to expect when her family moved from Colorado into the Mt. Lebanon School District this past summer.

"The WPIAL was new to me," said Amoroso, a 5-foot-7 senior. "I didn't really know what to expect. We were ranked No. 9 going into the season, so I knew winning a title wouldn't be easy."

The same was true for Blue Devils coach Jeff Schilling and his squad. They didn't know what to expect from an out-of-state player who was a member of her junior varsity last year.

Fortunately, both parties were pleasantly surprised by the results. Amoroso stepped in as Mt. Lebanon's setter and helped the Blue Devils win the WPIAL Class AAA title.

"It's great," Amoroso said. "It's awesome to win a WPIAL title."

Amoroso recorded 49 assists in Saturday's championship match against Fox Chapel. The Blue Devils, seeded No. 4 in the Class AAA bracket, posted a 3-1 victory against No. 3 seed Fox Chapel.

"Having a lefty setter who can move and play balls like that is a bonus," Schilling said. "When you add a piece to that group who is that talented at that position, its definitely a bonus."

Most of Amoroso's assists came on kills by Caroline Grattan, who led all hitters with 23 kills in the championship match.

"Rachael was the missing link," Grattan said. "She's a great setter. She's active at the net and she's able to mix the ball around. She has definitely grown a lot since she got her."

Mary Baich, a sophomore outside hitter, had 11 kills and Alexa Pavlick, a sophomore middle hitter, had nine kills.

"Caroline is so prolific as an attacker," Schilling said. "The problem is that everybody knows she is getting the ball. We spent two games trying to get our middles more involved. By the fourth game, the middles were making a big contribution. That opened up things more for Caroline."

Grattan was very pleased with the help.

"That made it a lot easier for me," Schilling said. "It takes a great weight off my shoulders. I can tell when Rachel is getting in a rhythm because she starts mixing it up. She gets more confident that other people are going to be there for her."

Fox Chapel opened the title match with a 25-21 victory.

"We had six or seven serving errors in the first set. We didn't make any in the second set and very few in the third set. That was the difference," Schilling said.

Grattan agreed: "Serving was a big thing in the second set. We made a lot of serving errors in the first set. Serving is a big part of our game. If we can drive them back, it will take away their offense."

Mt. Lebanon eliminated its serving errors in the second set and rolled to a 25-13 victory. The third and fourth sets were also close, but the Blue Devils pulled out victories of 25-22 and 25-20 to complete the victory.

"I'm really proud of the kids," Schilling said. "They played great throughout the playoffs."

It was the sixth WPIAL title and third in six years for Mt. Lebanon. Fox Chapel was making its first appearance in a WPIAL title match.

"We reached two goals by winning the section title and the WPIAL title," Schilling said. "The next goal is to win a PIAA title."

The PIAA Tournament began Tuesday as Mt. Lebanon defeated District 9 champion DuBois, 3-0. The Blue Devils will face District 3 third-place finisher Landisville Hempfield on Saturday.

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