Penn-Trafford girls volleyball coach Jim Schall is not one to brag -- his record speaks for itself.
Schall has reached the midway point of his 16th season and is looking for his team's 14th postseason berth.
"We've been to the WPIAL playoffs all but two years," Schall said. "I'm very proud that we've been so consistent over the years."
That consistency has continued.
Penn-Trafford concluded the first half of play in Class AAA Section 1 on Tuesday with a 3-1 loss against Norwin. The Warriors, who are ranked No. 5 in Class AAA, are in a three-way tie for the section lead with Norwin and Hempfield Area, all with 5-1 section records.
"It's a big week for us," Schall said. "We're facing the two strongest opponents in our section in the same week. It certainly helps to have both matches at home."
Schall was also referring to tonight's showdown with No. 6 Hempfield.
"It may be the midpoint of the season, but it's still early," Schall said. "We want to finish the year strong, and we've put ourselves in a position to do that."
Penn-Trafford's first match-up with Hempfield came in a section opener on Sept. 3. It was a hard-fought battle with the Warriors capturing the fifth and deciding set.
"We should have won that match," Hempfield coach Lindsay Turchetta said in an East Xtra story that appeared last week. "We are head-over-heels above Penn-Trafford. We just had a bad match. I would be very surprised if we lose to [Penn-Trafford] in the second half."
Schall had little or no response to Turchetta's boastful claim.
"Hempfield has a very good team," Schall said. "We've improved since our first match with them, and I'm sure they have improved. Both teams are evenly matched so I'm expecting a very competitive match. It will be a big test for both teams."
Penn-Trafford won the Section 1 title last year, but made a surprising first-round exit from the WPIAL playoffs after losing to upstart Chartiers Valley. Six of the Warriors top 10 players from that squad are back, including a trio of All-Section 1 players, Taylor Solo, Maria Palarino and Alex Heiman.
Solo, a 5-foot-6 senior, has been Penn-Trafford's setter since her freshman year. She's been voted first-team All-Section 1 and third-team All-WPIAL the past two years.
"Taylor is one of the best setters I've ever coached," Schall said. "She's the only four-year starter I've had at setter. It's not often that you see a four-year starter at setter. I think I'm safe in saying that there are very few four-year setters in the WPIAL this year."
Palarino, a 5-10 junior outside hitter, was also voted first-team All-Section 1. Heiman, a 5-11 senior middle hitter, was a second-team selection.
"Maria and Alex have been two of our top hitters, but they are not our only hitters," Schall said. "We are pretty balanced on offense.
"Alex had an ankle injury at the start of the year. She's recovered now and fortunately didn't miss much time."
Angela Tarabrella, Stephanie Jones and Deanna Coll are also back from last year's squad. Tarabrella is a 5-9 junior who has moved from the back row to outside hitter this year.
Jones is a 5-9 senior who was the Warriors' right-side hitter last year, but has been moved to the left side.
Coll, a 5-10 senior, has taken over a middle-hitting role after serving as a backup last year.
Also in Penn-Trafford's nine-player rotation are 5-9 junior middle hitter Emma Mull, 5-4 senior defensive specialist Caitlyn Petrosky and 5-6 senior defensive specialist Sydni Werksman.
Penn-Trafford is playing host to a five-team tournament this weekend. The other four participants are section rival Greater Latrobe, Derry Area, South Park and Marion Center from Indiana County.hsother