East Xtra: Obama Academy wins third title in a row

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Obama Academy girls volleyball coach Pete Vitti isn't afraid of playing a tough schedule.

"We scheduled non-league matches against Oakland Catholic, Bethel Park, Bishop Canevin and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart," Vitti said. "All four qualified for the WPIAL playoffs. We also scheduled scrimmages against Pine-Richland and West Allegheny."

Obama Academy lost all four non-league matches, but Vitti was pleased with the Eagles performance.

"We were competitive in all four matches," Vitti said. "Those four matches and our tournament schedule helped to prepare us for the City League tournament and the PIAA tournament."

The experience Obama picked up in its non-league schedule paid off at the City League tournament, which took place last Thursday at Brashear High School.

"The competition we faced during the regular season played a big part in our success," Vitti said. "It's the toughest schedule I've ever had."

Obama was seeded No. 1 in the City League tournament after posting a 10-0 league record during the regular season. The Eagles opened the tournament with a 25-10, 25-10 victory against Brashear. Allderdice swept Carrick in the other first-round match.

That left Obama and Allderdice in the winners bracket, and the Eagles posted a 25-9, 25-20 victory.

"That win gave us a chance to sit back and see who would come out of the consolation bracket," Vitti said. "Carrick knocked Brashear out of the tournament with a 2-0 win. And then Allderdice eliminated Carrick with a narrow 2-1 victory."

The victory earned Allderdice a berth in the title match with Obama, but the Dragons would have to beat the Eagles twice to win the title. Another match was not needed, as Obama posted a 25-21, 25-20 victory to claim its third consecutive City League title.

"It was much tougher against Allderdice in the title match," Vitti said. "[Allderdice] gave us all we could handle, but my girls were up to the challenge."

The victory cemented Obama Academy as the top program in the City League, and Vitti as the top coach.

It was Obama'a third consecutive league title, one for each year the school and program have existed. It was Vitti's sixth in a row -- he had won the three previous at Schenley, which is now closed.

Vitti uses a nine-player rotation, which includes six starters from last year's squad.

"This is one of the best team's I've coached," Vitti said. "We have good height and a group of girls who are willing to work hard."

Obama Academy's top two returning starters are 5-foot-11 senior outside hitter Gabrielle Egler and 5-6 junior setter Rosa Belle Vitti.

"Gabby [Egler] is a three-year starter and our top hitter," Vitti said. "She had 27 kills in the City League tournament, including 12 in the title match."

Rosa Belle Vitti is coach Vitti's daughter. She had 15 assists and five aces in the championship match.

"Rosa Belle has started since her freshman year," coach Vitti said. "We use a modified 6-2 offense with her setting during four of the six rotations."

The other setter is 5-2 senior Alex Bowens, a two-year starter. Bowens is joined on the varsity by sister Kennedy Bowens, a 5-2 sophomore libero.

Obama Academy's other two returning starters are 5-10 junior middle hitter Hannah Williams and 6-1 junior middle/outside hitter Georgia Bubash.

"Hannah is a three-year starter and Georgia is a two-year starter," Vitti said. "We use Georgia in all three front-line positions. Georgia is also a great server. She had 17 aces in the City League tournament."

The other two players in Vitti's starting rotation are 5-10 sophomore middle hitter Dalaysha Askew and 5-10 freshman outside hitter Taylin Tyler.

Winning the City League title earned Obama a berth in the PIAA Class AA tournament. The Eagles are one of three teams in a preliminary round robin, which will take place Saturday at St. Mary's High School.

The District 5 champion and District 9 champion will meet Obama in a round robin. The winner will advance to a first-round match against the District 10 runner-up.

"We had the same setup last year," Vitti said. "We beat Punxsutawney and lost to Somerset.

"I'm very confident in our chances to move on this year."

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