Thomas Jefferson boys volleyball grabs section title
It has proven to be one of the stronger teams in boys’ volleyball history at Thomas Jefferson.
TJ clinched first place in Section 3-AA this season with an 8-2 record, and claimed just the third section championship in school history.
The Jaguars, who also won section titles in 2006 and 2014, finished ahead of South Park (7-3), Obama Academy (7-3), Seton-La Salle (3-6), Keystone Oaks (3-6) and Steel Valley (1-9).
Thomas Jefferson rolled to seven consecutive section victories to wrap up this year’s crown.
During the regular season, the Jaguars defeated Keystone Oaks, Steel Valley and Seton-La Salle twice, and Obama Academy and South Park twice.
“We got off to a slow start with injuries and players in different positions that they were not used to playing, and their timing was off,” Frank Staffen, TJ’s head coach, said. “I think we have a really strong team, and I am looking forward to the playoffs. We should be healthy going into the playoffs. We have two players recovering (from injuries) and should be ready.
“I think Ambridge and Beaver Christian Academy are the teams to beat in the WPIAL and they are ranked one and two.”
Thomas Jefferson started off with a 3-0 loss to Obama Academy and a 3-2 defeat to South Park. But the Jaguars blanked both opponents by 3-0 scores the second time they faced them.
TJ is led by a strong senior corps in Jake Dobranski, an outside hitter/defensive specialist; right-side hitter Jake Aul, outside hitters Andy Aul and Steve Dunlap; libero Jared Kelly, and Justin Rondinelli, a backup at the middle hitter position.
Dunlap, who switched from middle to outside hitter this season, and Kelly are four-year lettermen.
Junior Dan Francis is a second-year starter at setter, while junior Tom Campbell has been filling in at outside hitter because of injuries.
Logan Burnsworth and Dan Jordan are both sophomore middle hitters. Rocco Kempa, a junior, and Ryan David, a sophomore, are defensive specialists.
Eight members of the team are 6 feet or taller — Burnsworth, Rondinelli, Jordan, Dobranski, Andy Aul, Jake Aul, Dunlap and Campbell.
“We are setting high goals for the playoffs,” Staffen said. “We are pretty solid at all positions, and we are healthy. I think a lot teams might underestimate us due to our early losses.”
TJ (8-2) moved into the No. 5 spot in Class AA this week in the Trib Total Media high school volleyball rankings.
The top four teams in Class AA remained the same: Ambridge (10-0), Deer Lakes (8-0), Beaver County Christian (8-2) and Derry (6-2).
TJ netters dominate all-section team
Seven members of the Thomas Jefferson boys’ volleyball squad were named as all-section selections, including five first-team honorees.
Kelly (libero), Dobranski (outside hitter), Francis (setter), Jake Aul (right-side hitter) and Dunlap (outside hitter) were first-team picks for the Jaguars.
They represented half of the 10 players chosen to the first team.
Two TJ middle hitters, Jordan and Burnsworth, were second team and honorable mention selections.
Ray Fisher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-388-5820 or firstname.lastname@example.org.