Tara Savisky is a four-year starter for the West Allegheny High School girls volleyball team, but she's actually been a part of the program for five years.
"Tara was a manager for us during her eighth grade year," West Allegheny coach Brian Begor said. "So she's actually been with us for five years. She's like a third child to me. It's going to be tough when she graduates."
Savisky's season as a manager, 2010, coincided with West Allegheny's appearance in the PIAA Class AA title match. The Indians lost to Merion Mercy, a school that claimed its fourth consecutive title.
"Our all-state setter, Carissa Miara, graduated after that season and we didn't have a back-up setter," Begor said. "I decided during the offseason to train Tara to be our next setter. It was a baptism by fire for her.
"It was a risky move to use a freshman at the most important position on the court, but I felt Tara had the attributes required to be a quality setter. She's super competitive, very athletic and mentally tough. I just needed to teach her the finer points of setting."
Savisky made her varsity debut in 2011 and picked up where Miara left off. With Savisky running West Allegheny's offense, the Indians made another appearance in the PIAA tournament, but fell one win short of a second consecutive title-match berth after losing to eventual champion Brandywine Heights in the semifinals.
"That season was a whirlwind of excitement," said Savisky, who was recognized as a third-team All-WPIAL Class A selection. "We were so close to making it back to the finals. I wish I had the skill level back then that I do now. We would have won the state title."
Savisky was fortunate to have a talented group of hitters returning for her debut season.
"We had a great nucleus of returning starters that included three hitters who were recognized on the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association All-State team after the season," Begor said.
Savisky and her West Allegheny teammates faced a much different scenario in 2012, her sophomore season, as West Allegheny moved up in classification to AAA. The Indians went from being one of the biggest Class AA schools to one of the smallest Class AAA schools.
"The one big difference between Class AA and AAA is depth," Savisky said. "The level of play isn't that much different when you get to the postseason, but the bigger schools have more athletes to choose from."
West Allegheny hasn't fared as well since moving up to Class AAA. The Indians placed fourth in Section 5 in 2012, falling one win short of a playoff berth, but Savisky was a second-team All-WPIAL choice.
"It was just the opposite for Tara in her sophomore year," Begor said. "She was an experienced setter who had to work with all new hitters, because our big guns graduated. She became the undisputed leader of our team as a 10th grader."
West Allegheny made a return to the WPIAL playoffs last season after placing third in Section 5.
"Our goal every year it to qualify for the playoffs," said Savisky, who was voted first-team All-WPIAL and to the PVCA All-State team. "We made it back to the playoffs last year and hope for a return trip this season."
Begor isn't shy in his praise for Savisky.
"Tara is the best pure setter in the WPIAL," Begor said. "Shaler's Anne Bozzo is a very talented setter, but she's also a hitter. I wouldn't trade Tara for any player in the WPIAL."
Savisky stands in at 5 feet 6, which has caused a college recruiting dilemma.
"Tara is talented enough to play [NCAA] Division I ball, but she may have to switch positions to libero," Begor said. "College coaches prefer tall setters, so most of the schools have recruited her as a libero."
Savisky made an early commitment to the University of Maryland, but had second thoughts.
"At first, I felt good with my choice, then thought about it more and decided that Maryland wasn't the right fit for me," Savisky said. "Deep down in my heart, I want what's going to make me the happiest."
Savisky said she will make a decision when she finds the right fit.
"I would prefer to be a setter in college, but realize that may not be an option," Savisky said. "I want to make a decision as soon as possible, but I'm taking my time."
One thing Savisky is sure of is that she want's to become a teacher.
"I love children," Savisky said. "I want to teach elementary or kindergarten."