West Xtra: Beaver back again for a run in playoffs

HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL


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It's 16 and counting for the Beaver Area High School girls volleyball program.

The Bobcats will make their 16th consecutive WPIAL Class AA playoff appearance in Thursday's first round.

Beaver coach Charlene Horwatt has played a huge part in the Bobcats' successful run.

A teacher at the district's middle school for 19 years, she has coached the team at that level since she started teaching there and has also coached Beaver's varsity team for 15 seasons.

"I took a four-year sabbatical from the varsity. This is my sixth year back," she said.

Beaver has been a WPIAL top-four finisher four times during this stretch, but the last time the Bobcats advanced past the first round was 2003.

"One thing we've never had at Beaver is a player who is 6 feet or taller," Horwatt said. "I see a team like Thomas Jefferson that has two 6-footers and I wonder what it would be like to have a girl that tall."

The tallest girl on this year's Bobcats squad is injured.

"Ave Palguta suffered an ankle injury four weeks ago and hasn't played since," said Horwatt, referring to a 5-foot-9 senior outside/middle hitter who is a three-year letter-winner and two-year starter. "We might be able to use her to serve for the playoffs, but I don't think she will be able to play in the front row."

Palguta was voted second-team All-Section 1-AA last year.

"With Ave out of the lineup, we only have one senior in our starting rotation," Horwatt said. "In fact, most of our varsity roster is made up of freshmen. We have 24 girls on the varsity and 14 are freshmen. That certainly bodes well for the future."

Beaver earned its playoff berth by placing second in Section 1 with a 10-2 record. The Bobcats are seeded No. 9 in the 21-team bracket and face No. 8 seed Elizabeth Forward in tonight's first-round match at Bishop Canevin, beginning at 6 p.m.

"Inconsistency has been a theme for this team," Horwatt said. "I've been riding a roller coaster all year. One night we look good enough to be a section champ, then look like a completely different team in our next match."

Palguta is one of four Bobcats who were recognized on last year's all-section team. Emily Berry and Allie Schmid were voted to the first team, while Kayla Bulat was a second-team selection. All three are three-year starters.

Berry is a 5-2 senior libero who will continue her career at California University of Pennsylvania. Schmid is a 5-8 junior setter/outside hitter and Bulat is a 5-7 junior middle hitter.

"Emily, Allie and Kayla are the best three players at their positions in our section," Horwatt said. "Our other three positions have underclassmen who have been inconsistent."

With Palguta out of the lineup, Horwatt has been using a seven-player rotation. The other four players are 5-7 sophomore outside hitter Taylor Hineman, 5-7 sophomore outside hitter Haley Champ, 5-6 sophomore setter/outside hitter Brianna Turnley and 5-7 freshman middle hitter Grace Oram. Hineman started last year as a freshman.

"We're using a modified offense that features two setters," Horwatt said. "It's not a true 5-1 or 6-2. We're just adjusting on the fly. It's not a traditional offense, but it's worked thus far."

Horwatt feels the Class AA title is up for grabs.

"The level of play in Class AA is down across the board this year," Horwatt said. "There are quite a few teams that are above average, but none is a clear favorite. Anything can happen."


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