Baldwin netters land WPIAL accolades
The postseason accolades are pouring in for the WPIAL Class AAA champion Baldwin girls’ volleyball team.
Three Baldwin players have been lauded as all-WPIAL selections — sophomore OH Maddi Sgattoni (first team), junior OH Mackenzie Voelker (second team) and senior DS Tori Dedig (third team).
Sgattoni, Voelker, Dedig and senior libero Sarah Welsh also were named first team all-section, and were joined by junior RS Mikaela Thorne (second team) and junior S Mallory O’Brien (third team).
Sgattoni, a two-year starter, proved to be one of the most dominant — if not the most dominant — players in the WPIAL this season.
“Maddi’s game is about power and athleticism,” Chris Kelly, Baldwin’s head coach, said. “She is willing to put in the extra time. Last year, she was more one dimensional, playing only front row. Now she doesn’t leave the court. Her defense and serve-receive are really good. Maddi often has the big hit — the one that might get noticed by everybody in the gym.”
Baldwin rolled through the regular season and WPIAL playoffs undefeated. The Lady Highlanders, after posting a 12-0 record in Section 5-AAA, defeated Plum, Pine-Richland, Seneca Valley and North Allegheny in the WPIAL playoffs.
“We wouldn’t have been able to achieve this goal (winning the WPIAL championship) without our coaches, parents, fans and the seniors’ leadership,” Sgattoni said. “Also, for me personally, my sister (Tori) was a big part in how I play the game by helping me throughout the whole season. I always went to my sister’s games, when she was a freshman and I stayed for the varsity games. I knew some day that I would be up at the high school playing, but I never could get the true feeling of what it was like to be out there on the court. I never imagined the intensity and bond on the court, but being in the WPIAL championship made me realize how much I love the game.
“I always hoped one day that would be me out on the court, and my dream finally came true, which is still amazing.”
The Baldwin girls advanced to the PIAA semifinals with victories against Allderdice and Seneca Valley.
Their season ended with a 3-1 loss to District 3 champ Landisville Hempfield in the PIAA semifinal round.
The Lady Highlanders finished with a 21-1 overall record.
“The team’s performance this season was beyond anything I could have expected,” Kelly said. “I knew we had the potential to be very good and challenge for a section title. I was excited about this team from the end of last season. There is a lot of talent on this team, but the way the girls came together was more than I could have hoped for.
“The seniors were great leaders. There were no real divisions on the team. Every girl was simply part of the team, no matter what their role.”
The four senior co-captains on the 2014 championship squad were Dedig, Welsh, MH Tori Sgattoni and DS Delaney Kelly.
The elder Sgattoni switched roles from her junior season, when she manned a right-side hitting position.
“Tori made the switch from right side to middle, and began asking early in preseason to work on technique and timing so that she could be successful in that new position,” Kelly said. “As a coach, I love when kids ask to put in extra time to work on their game.
“Tori makes a lot of plays that the average spectator or fan might not appreciate, but they don’t go unnoticed by the coaching staff. Tori’s leadership off the court is just as important as what she does on the court.”
Kelly, former head coach of the Peters Township boys’ volleyball program, took over as head coach at Baldwin this season.
He was assisted by Adam Foote, Baldwin’s former head coach, and Katie Leaf.
What can Kelly, and the Lady Highlanders, possibly do for an encore in 2015?
The sky’s the limit, as Maddi Sgattoni, Voelker, Thorne, O’Brien, junior MH Sierra Colbert and junior DS Hannah Scott will be returning starters next year.
They will be banded with an outstanding group of reserves looking to fill key roles on the 2015 team.
“I’m looking to be very competitive again next year,” Kelly said. “Even though we are losing those great senior leaders, I think the juniors are ready to step up and fill that role.
“Two-thirds of our starting lineup is returning next year, and we have talent ready to step in and fill the void. I don’t think we’ll be able to sneak up on anybody next year.”
WPIAL champions usually don’t.
Ray Fisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5820 or firstname.lastname@example.org