South Xtra: Peters getting greedy in section title race
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The Peters Township girls volleyball team is hoping the third time is a charm.
The Indians tied with Upper St. Clair for the Section 2-AAA title in 2010, Ashley Green's first year as the Indians coach.
Last season, Green's squad finished second in the section behind Upper St. Clair. The Indians advanced to the WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals before losing to eventual runner-up Pine-Richland.
This season, Green's squad is hoping to claim an outright section title. The Indians are on track to reach that goal.
Peters Township concluded the first half of play in Section 2-AAA with Tuesday's 3-0 win against Canon-McMillan. The victory gives the Indians a 6-0 record in the section, while Canon-McMillan dropped to 4-2 and in a tie for second place with Upper St. Clair.
The Panthers are also a surprising 4-2 after losing to Canon-McMillan and Peters Township. The Big Macs also have a loss to Connellsville, so Peters Township has a commanding two-game lead on both teams.
"I like the idea that we are in control of our own destiny," Green said. "If we continue to play the way we did in the first half, we can win the section title outright."
With that in mind, Peters Township is obviously looking forward to its rematch with Upper St. Clair in the second half.
"We play Upper St. Clair next Tuesday, and this time the match is at home," Green said. "Peters Township has a great rivalry with Upper St. Clair in almost every sport, so the kids are looking forward to the rematch. They don't want to share the title, like we did two years ago."
Green realizes that Section 2-AAA is considered relatively weak compared to the top sections in Class AAA. That's why she beefed up the Indians non-section schedule.
"We scheduled non-section matches with Oakland Catholic, Plum, Bethel Park and Seton-LaSalle to improve our schedule," Green said.
Peters Township dropped a 3-1 decision to Oakland Catholic, then beat Plum, 3-0. Both opponents are in the WPIAL rankings. The Indians will play Bethel Park and Seton-LaSalle in October.
Oakland Catholic moved up to No. 5 in the WPIAL Class AAA rankings with its win against Peters Township, while the Indians dropped to No. 6. Plum stands in at No. 8 and Bethel Park is No. 10.
"Pine-Richland, North Allegheny and Seneca Valley, the big three from Section 3-AAA, are still the teams to watch in the WPIAL playoff picture," Green said. "But we have a lot of good teams in Class AAA this year, so there is no clear-cut favorite."
Green's lineup includes 12 players who lettered last year. The top returnees are Shiloh Simonson and Kelly Johnson, a pair of three-year starters who were voted second-team All-WPIAL Class AAA last year. Simonson is a 5-foot-9 senior outside hitter, while Johnson is a 5-9 senior setter.
"Shiloh is our go-to hitter," Green said. "She's our most consistent player. About half of Kelly's sets go to Shiloh. The other half of the hits are split among our other hitters. Shiloh would like to play at either Point Park or Seton Hill next year. Both have a good theatre program, and that's what she wants to major in."
Other seniors in Peters Township's starting rotation are 6-1 middle hitter Lauren Belack, 5-9 middle hitter Hannah Gross and 5-8 right-side hitter Lauren Tassone. Belack and Gross are returning starters.
"One thing that's great about this team is our depth," Green said. "We have 15 players on the varsity and everybody is seeing playing time."
Juniors who are returning letter-winners are 5-5 defensive specialist Jillian Kovac, 5-5 libero Katie McGovern, 5-8 right-side hitter Brooke Lininger, 5-9 outside hitter Maddie Auld, 5-8 outside hitter Christine Renz, 5-8 middle hitter Jordan Harakal and 5-8 middle hitter Kelsey Hunter.
Kovac and Lininger were starters last season.
"We also have a sophomore and a pair of freshmen on the varsity," Green said. "All three are making contributions."
The three newcomers are 5-5 sophomore defensive specialist Angela Krak, 5-8 freshman outside hitter Madison Kerr and 5-8 freshman setter Caroline Curran.
Peters Township has participated in two tournaments. The Indians opened the season by placing third at the Mt. Lebanon Tournament. On Saturday, the Indians captured the team title at the South Fayette Tournament.
"Lauren Belack played really well at the [South Fayette] tournament," Green said. "Shiloh and Kelly also did a fine job."