Thomas Jefferson boys volleyball anticipates strong WPIAL playoff run
The Thomas Jefferson boys’ volleyball team is aiming to make a strong playoff run in the WPIAL Class AA division.
“I think we have potential to be very good this year, if we can stay healthy,” Frank Staffen, TJ’s head coach, said. “We have set high goals. We have a lot of experience from last year; we are pretty solid at all positions.”
The Jaguars lost their section opener last week, falling to Obama Academy, 3-0.
The TJ netters also met Keystone Oaks earlier this week, and will host Seton-La Salle on Thursday. South Park and Steel Valley round out the Section 3-AA teams.
“Obama (was) a key matchup for us,” Staffen said. “They have talent this year and are the team to beat in our section.
The TJ-Obama Academy match was closer than the final score indicates. The Eagles won by scores of 29-27, 25-16, 25-22.
“We competed with Obama; the games were competitive,” Staffen said. “I still think we can play better and just need more playing time and a team that is healthy at 100 percent.
“Obama is a very good team and has a great setter and outside hitters. They will be hard to beat, but I still think we have the talent to compete with them the second time we play them. We need to focus more on passing and blocking.”
Thomas Jefferson has been battling a few injuries early in the season.
Two players back in the lineup after recovering from injuries are seniors Steve Dunlap and Andy Aul.
Dunlap, who will be a fourth-year varsity letterman this season, has hopes for a banner 2016 campaign.
“We expect nothing less than a WPIAL championship,” he said. “Our team is an all-around team with experience. Our coach told us that this is one of the best-hitting teams he has ever had. To us, that means a lot.”
Dunlap, also a two-year letterman in basketball, starts at the middle hitter spot.
“We are working to get a WPIAL championship banner in our gym,” he said.
“We don’t listen to rankings and people that doubt us. We stick to our plan and how we play.”
Logan Burnsworth and Dan Jordan, both sophomores, and senior Justin Rondinelli are middle hitters.
Burnsworth, at 6-foot-3, is the tallest player on the team.
“Logan is very athletic,” Staffen said.
Aul, his twin brother, senior Andy Aul, and Jake Dobranski are outside hitters, while junior Dan Francis is a second-year setter at the varsity level. Senior libero Jared Kelly, junior Rocco Kemp and sophomore Ryan David are defensive specialists.
Tom Campbell and Luke Petruzzi, both junior outside hitters, are key reserves.
“They will step in when needed,” Staffen said.
Other sophomore athletes in the program include Ian Cenci (S/OH), Ryan David (DS/S), Eddie George (OH), Sean Graves (DS) and Kevin Koett (MH).
Outside hitters Jordan Stosic, Paul Chonko and Kyle Funkhouser are top freshman prospects.
Ray Fisher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-388-5820 or email@example.com.