West Xtra: OLSH is surviving in a rugged section

HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL

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Records can be deceiving -- just ask Our Lady of the Sacred Heart boys volleyball coach Mike McDonald.

The Chargers finished the regular season with a 2-6 record in Class AA Section 1, and took a 4-9 overall record into a non-section match against Moon Area on Wednesday.

Despite it's lackluster record, McDonald's squad is ranked No. 6 in the WPIAL in Class AA.

"Eight of our nine losses were to teams ranked ahead of us," McDonald said. "We lost twice to [No. 1] Ambridge, [No. 3] Montour and [No. 4] Beaver County Christian in section play. We also have non-section losses to [No. 2] Derry and [No. 5] Deer Lakes. Our only other loss was to Upper St. Clair, a team ranked seventh in Class AAA.

"Our record is deceiving. We've been competitive with everybody, except for Ambridge. The guys have played well at times, just not good enough to overcome the experience of our opponents."

It's obvious that OLSH is in the strongest of the three Class AA sections.

"Four of the top six teams in the Class AA rankings are from Section 1," McDonald said.

Fortunately for the Chargers, the top four teams in each section qualify for the WPIAL tournament.

"I doubt that we will be seeded among the top six in the WPIAL bracket, considering we're a fourth-place team," said McDonald, who also serves as chairman of the WPIAL Volleyball Steering Committee. "But one thing is for sure: I wouldn't want to be the team that has to play us. We're better than our record shows."

The Chargers suffered a big blow even before the season began.

"We had two returning starters decide not to play this year," McDonald said. "That left us with only three players who had varsity experience."

Fortunately, one of the returning starters is one of the best players in the WPIAL. The Chargers are led by Shaughn McDonald, a 6-foot-1 junior outside hitter who is also the coach's son.

McDonald has been voted first-team All-WPIAL Class AA the past two years. He was also recognized on the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association Class AA All-State Team both years.

"Shaughn has done everything he has been asked to do to help our program at OLSH," Mike McDonald said. "Shaughn tries to share his passion for this sport with his teammates and leads by example through his performance. Shaughn is a big reason that OLSH is still on the volleyball map in the WPIAL."

The only other players with previous varsity experience are Alex Ritter, a 6-0 junior outside hitter, and Nick Mulvey. a 6-0 setter and the lone senior for the Chargers.

"Nick was a defensive/serving specialist last year," McDonald said. "I asked Nick to be our setter this year, despite no previous setting experience, and he's done a fine job."

McDonald has built the squad around Ritter, Mulvey and his son.

"I placed a lot of pressure on our three experienced players to perform and take pressure off the new guys," McDonald said. "Shaughn and Alex have carried the brunt of the heavy lifting as far as passing and attacking, while Nick has taken over the setting.

"While that has been going on, I have been trying to get the new guys caught up as fast as I can. The really good news is that everyone except for Nick is back next year."

Three newcomers to the Chargers are from the basketball team, 6-3 junior opposite Kendall Paige, 6-5 junior middle blocker Nick Metz and 5-11 junior middle hitter Ian Schrenk.

"Kendal is picking up the game really fast," McDonald said. "Ian hurt his hand in our first match and is still out of the lineup."

Ian Alexander, a 5-10 setter, and Andrew Durban, a 6-5 middle blocker, are the other juniors in OLSH's starting lineup.

Freshmen who have moved into the rotation are 6-3 middle hitter Colin Neville, 5-8 back-row specialist Sean Cahalan, and 6-1 back-row specialist Sam Huddleston.

"The freshmen have done well," McDonald said. "A few of them were pressed into varsity roles before they were ready, but I think they have handled it pretty well. It will benefit them and us later on."

OLSH picked up another non-section victory on Monday with a 3-0 win against Obama Academy. The Chargers were scheduled to play at Moon Wednesday.

The 11-team OLSH Invitational will take place Saturday. The other 10 participants are: Ambridge, Beaver County Christian, Farrell, Ford City, Keystone Oaks, North Hills, Obama Academy, Seton-LaSalle, Thomas Jefferson and West Shamokin.

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