West/South Xtra: South Fayette reloads on the fly, wins Section 6-AA championship
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At first glance, this didn't shape up as a banner season for the South Fayette High School girls volleyball team.
The Lions fell one win short of qualifying for a WPIAL playoff berth in 2011 while competing in the strongest section in Class AA.
Eight of the top 10 players from that team graduated, including two who are now playing in college.
With that in mind, Scott Sund-gren entered this season, his 12th as Lions head coach, with a very inexperienced squad.
"We had only two players who saw significant playing time last season returning," Sundgren said. "We certainly had some rebuilding to do."
To make matters even more interesting, South Fayette was moved to a different section after last year's Section 3-AA was dismantled when West Allegheny and Montour were moved up to Class AAA.
The Lions landed in the newly formed Section 6-AA, along with South Park, Seton-LaSalle, Keystone Oaks, Steel Valley and East Allegheny. Seton-LaSalle had moved up in classification.
"We had an inexperienced group of kids coming into a new section," Sundgren said. "But I could see that we had talent. They just didn't have much court time. It was a question of how quickly the girls would come together and play as a team."
South Fayette opened its Section 6-AA schedule with a home match against Seton-LaSalle, a program that qualified for the WPIAL Class A playoffs last season. The Rebels had a veteran squad returning and swept the Lions.
"With such a young squad, I knew it would take some time for the girls to jell," Sundgren said. "I just didn't know how long it would take. We didn't play very well in that match. We played them much better the second time around."
Since the loss to Seton-LaSalle, South Fayette has won nine consecutive matches and clinched first place in the section by defeating South Park, 3-0, Tuesday. The Lions are 9-1 in section play.
"We beat South Park, 3-1, in the first half at home," Sund-gren said. "This time we're on the road."
South Fayette, ranked No. 8 in the WPIAL in Class AA, is making its 10th playoff appearance in 12 years.
"There are six really good teams in Class AA," said Sund-gren, referring to the top six teams in the rankings. "With such a strong field, I would be satisfied if we make it through the first round [of the WPIAL playoffs]."
Sundgren uses a 10-player rotation, which includes only two players who had significant varsity experience prior to this season, 5-foot-2 senior defensive specialist Sidney Becker and 5-5 senior libero Jessica Fisher.
"Both lettered in the back row for us last year," Sundgren said. "Sidney saw some action at libero last year, and is now a defensive specialist. Jessica is our libero this year."
With such a young lineup, it took Sundgren a few weeks to find the right combination.
"We started with a 6-2 offense, but switched to a 5-1 so I could move our other setter to an outside hitter position," Sundgren said. "I also moved an outside hitter to the middle."
Miranda Tedford and Amanda Henry were the setters when the season began. Tedford is a 5-6 senior and Henry is a 5-9 sophomore.
"Amanda was supposed to be our opposite setter, but I switched her to outside hitter and she's been a pleasant surprise," Sundgren said.
Sundgren also moved Bethany Seibel, a 5-9 senior, from middle to outside hitter, and Jordan Beck, a 5-8 senior, from outside to middle hitter.
"Bethany was an outside hitter for her club team, so the change went very smoothly," Sundgren said. "Jordan had no experience in the middle, but wanted a chance to prove herself."
The other four players in the Lions' starting rotation are 5-10 sophomore middle hitter Lauren Crites, 5-7 sophomore right-side hitter Melinda Wells, 5-5 freshman defensive specialist Mikayla Fetchet and 5-7 junior serving specialist Christina Famularo.
"Amanda [Henry] has been our most consistent hitter," said Sundgren. "Bethany isn't far behind."
First Published October 18, 2012 12:00 am