In his 20 years as boys volleyball coach at Butler Area High School, Lew Liparulo has learned to accept one realization.
"We never have a big kid," Liparulo lamented. "We never have the 6-foot-5 or 6-6 kids. In fact, it's the same thing with our basketball team. I'm not sure why, but it is what it is."
The 2013 squad is no exception. Liparulo has only one player in the starting rotation who is taller than 6 feet 1.
"We don't have size, but we do have talented players who do their best when we face teams with a tall front line," Liparulo said.
Despite its lack of size, Butler has qualified for the WPIAL Class AAA tournament the past six years. And the Golden Tornado is on track to make another playoff appearance this year.
"We lost five starters who graduated, including Xavier Krause, who is now playing at Saint Francis [University]," Liparulo said. "But we do have strong sophomore and junior classes moving up to fill the holes."
Liparulo has seven lettermen returning from last year's squad, including Brandon Wampler, a 6-3 senior outside hitter and the team's tallest player.
"Brandon worked his way into the starting lineup last year and improved tremendously during the summer," Liparulo said. "He has a very fast swing."
Wampler is one of four seniors who are returning lettermen. The others are 6-1 opposite Luke Bryan, 5-7 defensive specialist Jared Boyer and 6-0 defensive specialist Ben Oesterling.
"Luke is doing a nice job on the right side," Liparulo said. "He provides a lot of team leadership."
The other three returning lettermen are 6-0 junior outside hitter Matt Rudzski, 5-7 junior defensive specialist Josh Kaufman and 5-9 sophomore libero Chris Fiorina.
"I use a lot of kids in a match," Liparulo said. "I've used 14 kids and experimented with different lineups."
The top two newcomers to the team are Matt Huey, a 6-1 junior outside hitter, and Andrew Paterno, a 6-1 sophomore setter.
"Matt is an impact player," Liparulo said. "He's averaging eight to 10 kills per match. In our match with North Allegheny, he had six kills in one game."
Paterno is running the Tornado 5-1 offense.
"Andrew was our JV setter last year," Liparulo said. "He hardly touched the ball on varsity. We considered using a two-setter offense, but decided to give Andrew a chance as the lone setter, and he's doing a nice job. We want to give him as much playing time as possible to allow him to improve."
Paterno is also on the basketball team. The same is true for twins Arum and Keenan Krause, who are both 5-10 sophomores who see time in the front court and the back row.
The other newcomers who see significant playing time are 6-0 sophomore middle hitter Rob Kuntz, 5-8 junior defensive specialist Jacob Ivory and 6-0 junior outside hitter Peter Swain.
It's a four-team race in the Class AAA Section 2 standings. Unbeaten North Allegheny (4-0) leads the section standings, followed by Fox Chapel (4-1), Butler (3-1) and Seneca Valley (2-2).
"We have two big matches coming up against Fox Chapel and Seneca Valley," Liparulo said. "We play at Fox Chapel [tonight], then play host to Seneca Valley Tuesday.
"We also have a big non-section match against Penn-Trafford [on April 22]. Those three matches will give us a good indication of where we are in the section and the overall picture in the WPIAL."
The top four teams from each section qualify for the WPIAL tournament.
"We can't forget about Pine-Richland," said Liparulo of the Rams, who were 0-3. "They took us to five games. They did the same thing with Fox Chapel."
Butler faced one of those teams Saturday at the 10-team Meadville tournament.
"We lost to Seneca Valley in pool play, then lost to them again in the semifinals," Liparulo said. "The only other team we lost to was Cochranton."hsother