The Our Lady of the Sacred Heart girls volleyball team finally has a home gym to play in ... and access to it couldn't have come at a better time.
"A fire pipe [located in the rafters above the gym] exploded in July," said coach Mike McDonald, who also serves as OLSH's athletic director. "We had 250,000 gallons of pressurized water spill on to our gym floor in 40 minutes."
The unfortunate incident came as quite a surprise to the school administration, considering the small Catholic school, located in Moon just outside Coraopolis, had its gym completely remodeled three years ago.
"It took three to four weeks just for the floor to dry. We had to replace the pipes and fix our damaged scoreboard. It was a real nightmare, but everything was covered by insurance."
Fortunately, the school has an auxiliary gym that was not affected.
"We were able to conduct gym classes and volleyball practices in the auxiliary gym, but could not have any matches there because it doesn't have any [spectator] seating," McDonald said.
"We held three of our home matches at Holy Trinity School [in Robinson]. Our biggest match against Avonworth was held at Cornell, because I wanted enough room for the extra fans. It's been a real challenge to play all of our matches on the road, but the girls and their parents have made the necessary adjustments. Everybody did their part to make it bearable."
Fortunately, the challenging schedule has not hurt the Chargers' record. McDonald's squad has an 11-0 record in Class A Section 4 and a 15-0 overall record in dual matches. The Chargers are ranked No. 2 in WPIAL Class A.
"We held our first practice [in the repaired gym] on Monday," McDonald said. "And our first [true] home match is [tonight] against Cornell."
The Cornell match is also OLSH's final match of the regular season.
"The gym has opened just in time for our annual tournament, which will take place Saturday," McDonald said. "We have 12 teams so far, and could have as many as 15."
The teams joining OLSH at Saturday's tournament are Beaver County Christian, Bentworth, Geibel, Neshannock, North Catholic, North Star, Obama Academy, Philipsburg-Osceola, Serra Catholic, South Side Beaver and West Shamokin.
"Some of the teams are ranked, and most have qualified for the WPIAL playoffs," McDonald said. "It will be a good tune-up for the playoffs."
OLSH claimed its second consecutive Section 4 title, despite having one of its top two players transfer during the summer. Kristi Chenarides, a senior middle hitter who was voted to the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association Class A All-State Team last year, transferred to Pine-Richland.
"We would have been stronger with Kristi in our lineup, but we've moved on and done very well without her," McDonald said. "And she is doing well at Pine-Richland. Kristi actually came to one of our matches against Avonworth, and some of our girls went to see her play in one match earlier in the season."
Chenarides was one of two players from OLSH who were recognized on the PVCA All-State Team last year. The other is Lexie Yoho, a 6-foot-1 senior middle hitter.
"Lexie is being recruited by quite a few schools," McDonald said. "She's been making recruiting visits almost every weekend. She's our most consistent and tallest player. She leads the team in kills and overall production."
Yoho is one of three returning starters for the Chargers. The others are 5-6 senior outside hitter Tia Sciulli and 5-6 junior outside hitter Jackie Mathews.
"Tia is our most intense player on the court," McDonald said. "She is pretty vocal. She's our best back-row ball-handler and a good all-around player. Jackie can play on the right or left side on the front line. She's also our best server."
Raquel Hewitt and Samantha Spencer have been splitting the setting duties. Hewitt is a 5-4 senior who lettered last year as the back-up setter. Spencer is a 5-6 junior.
"We've been using a 5-1 offense and switching setters when the situation merits," McDonald said. "It's worked very well for us."
Courtney Alexander, a 5-9 sophomore, has replaced Chenarides at middle hitter.
"Courtney came in and put a choke hold on the position right away," McDonald said. "She may be our most athletic player on the floor."
The other three players in McDonald's nine-player rotation are 5-5 junior outside hitter Meghan Taylor, 5-10 senior opposite Becca Porter and 5-10 senior middle hitter Bailey Sinicrope.hsother
First Published October 16, 2013 8:00 PM