The West Allegheny High School girls volleyball team moved up to Class AAA for the 2012 season -- it couldn't have come at a worse time.
West Allegheny bowed out of Class AA with an impressive performance in the 2011 PIAA championships. The Indians came within one victory of claiming a state title.
Five starters from that team graduated, however, leaving coach Brian Begor with a huge rebuilding job for the 2012 season.
"Three of those starters were recognized on the [Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association] all-state team," Begor said. "Losing them, along with the other seniors, left us with five inexperienced kids trying to get their feet wet. The move up to Class AAA didn't make it any easier."
Despite the graduation attrition and move up in classification, Begor's squad turned in a 6-6 record in Section 5 to place fourth out of seven teams.
"We actually finished .500 in the section," Begor said. "That was a good finish for that group."
Begor had a handful of seniors on last year's squad, but only two played a significant role.
"Going into the season, I kind of felt like we had the third best team in the section, but may be strong enough to finish second," Begor said. "I knew Bethel Park had the most talented team. I just didn't know how well we would do against Mt. Lebanon."
And that's just the way it's worked out. West Allegheny has a 5-4 section record. The Indians have lost twice each to Bethel Park (9-0) and Mt. Lebanon (8-2).
"We had our chances against Mt. Lebanon," Begor said. "The first time we met, we took them to five games. We lost the deciding game, 18-16."
West Allegheny is actually tied for third place with Baldwin (5-4), but the Indians have already defeated the Highlanders twice.
"We are through the toughest part of our schedule. Our three remaining section matches are against the bottom three teams in the standings," said Begor, referring to Montour, Moon, and Chartiers Valley. "Baldwin still has to play Bethel Park and Mt. Lebanon one more time."
West Allegheny had its section bye on Tuesday. The Indians play at Montour tonight.
"We are in one of the two strongest sections in Class AAA," said Begor, also referring to Section 3. "The competition we face during the regular season should help us in the playoffs."
Begor uses an eight-player rotation that includes five returning starters and three newcomers. The top returnee is Tara Savisky, a 5-foot-7 junior setter and three-year starter. Savisky is a two-time All-WPIAL selection. She was a third-team selection as a freshman in Class AA, and a second-team pick last year in Class AAA.
"I was the junior high coach when Tara was an eighth grader," Begor said. "I trained her to be a setter. I may be a little biased, but Tara is the best setter in the WPIAL. She would have her choice of colleges if she was taller."
The other four returning starters are 5-10 senior middle hitter Lizzie Murn, 5-8 senior outside hitter Alexis Hamm, 5-10 junior middle hitter Audra Killen and 5-6 senior outside hitter Jenna Reilly.
"Lizzie is our most mature and tallest player," Begor said. "Alexis is our strongest attacker. Audra and Jenna were part-time starters last year."
The three newcomers to West Allegheny's starting rotation are 5-2 sophomore libero Alyssa Placha, 5-8 junior opposite Rachel Buck and 5-7 junior defensive specialist Nicole Ostrander.
West Allegheny has participated in two tournaments. The Indians advanced to the semifinals of the Butler Tournament before losing to Hopewell. Begor's squad didn't fare as well in the MAC Big Schools Tournament.
"We had three senior starters taking their ACT test that day," Begor said. "That's why we didn't do as well."hsother
First Published October 9, 2013 8:00 PM