Seneca Valley’s Damiani emerges as backbone of girls volleyball team
Seneca Valley’s girls volleyball season began with a level of uncertainty, but by the end of the year, there was no doubt it was one of the best around.
With only two seniors — Bre Damiani and Sydney Martini — and the Raiders having to come out of Section 3 in Class AAA, which they won, Seneca Valley pressed all the way to the WPIAL semifinals.
While the team fell in a grueling five-set match to eventual WPIAL champion Baldwin, the Raiders qualified for the PIAA bracket. After winning its first state playoff game, Seneca Valley had a rematch with Baldwin on Saturday.
At the heart of the team is Damiani, a small, but mighty libero, who grew into a team leader and earned the respect of those around her.
“Bre came to play this season,” Seneca Valley coach Karen Martini said. “She wanted to prove she was one of the best in the WPIAL, and that she is a player, and she did it. She has done a great job this season.”
Damiani also emerged as a take-charge kind of individual. In the PIAA qualifier, one of the opposing players began taunting Sydney Martini. Damiani looked to her coach on the bench, prompting Karen Martini to call a time out.
“Bre looked at me and said, ‘Are we going to let that happen?’” Martini said. “The team just rallied around that.”
Seneca Valley advanced to states with the win, and Damiani extended her senior season.
“It has been great because we had a lot of underclassmen step up,” Damiani said. “We knew we were underrated and that people would be in for a surprise.”
Seneca Valley did surprise some. With about two weeks to go in the season, Seneca Valley was ranked No. 2 in the WPIAL, and made the trek to Shaler to face the then-No. 1 Titans.
Seneca Valley took the first two sets, but gave way to the more experienced squad. During that run to the end of the season, the Raiders swept WPIAL finalist North Allegheny. Had the team defeated Baldwin, it would have faced NA again in the finals.
Damiani reflected on the journey that got her to this point, one that began in a class of seven freshmen.
“People started going their separate ways,” Damiani said. “It’s not difficult to be one of two seniors because when we have to make a decision, it’s pretty easy.”
Damiani and Sydney Martini are the best of friends, and Karen Martini said it can be strange at times when the kids are just hanging out at the house because of the coach/mom/daughter’s friend dynamic.
“Coach is always on me, but it definitely helped me,” Damiani said. “She says she is going to pull me if I don’t play to my full potential.”
Martini noted that while she has made that statement, “There is no way I was pulling her this year. She knows I believe in her, and she is a very confident girl. … The more I challenged her, the more she brought it.”
Damiani did not break through into a full-time starting role until this season, but her time sitting and learning helped her read hitters better and has increased her drive to win.
“I used to be nervous out there,” she said. “There are a lot of good hitters out there, and I know that (with a positive attitude) I can do it.”
While Damiani was a key player for the team this season, she shares her story about sitting and waiting for an opportunity to present itself.
“I can relate to being on the bench, and wanting to play,” she said. “I tell any player in that situation to be assertive, lead through your actions and improve. I think players look up to me and try to match the intensity I bring. I remember looking up to the seniors my freshman year, when we won WPIALs.”
Jerry Clark is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.