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Time for North Hills volleyball to dig deep | TribLIVE.com
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Time for North Hills volleyball to dig deep

Tribune-Review
| Friday, October 7, 2016 5:09 p.m
MJNHvolleyISpearAsstADavisMLedonneHCASondergard092916
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
From left, North Hills' Ingrid Spears, assistant coaches Ashley Davis, Mary Ledonne and head coach Anna Sondergard cheer their team against Shaler on Sept. 20, 2016, at Shaler.
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Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
North Hills head coach Anna Sondergard cheers her team against Shaler on Sept. 20, 2016, at Shaler.
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Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
North Hills' Trinity Ryan competes against Shaler on Sept. 20, 2016, at Shaler.
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Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
North Hills' Rachel Licastro competes against Shaler on Sept. 20, 2016, at Shaler.
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Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
North Hills' Callie McClintock and Emily Quinn compete against Shaler on Sept. 20, 2016, at Shaler.
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Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
North Hills players celebrate against Shaler on Sept. 20, 2016, at Shaler.
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Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
North Hills' Julie McNally and Megan McCarthy compete against Shaler on Sept. 20, 2016, at Shaler.
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Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
North Hills' Emily Quinn competes against Shaler on Sept. 20, 2016, at Shaler.
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Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
North Hills' Ingrid Spears competes against Shaler on Sept. 20, 2016, at Shaler.
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Loius Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
North Hills' Callie McClintock competes against Shaler on Sept. 20, 2016, at Shaler.

This wasn’t the start the North Hills girls volleyball team had been hoping for. The senior-laden squad returned all of its starters this season but has yet to secure a win in Section 1-AAAA.

It hasn’t all been gloom and doom so far, from coach Anna Sondergard’s perspective. Although she admits her team’s start has been frustrating, she points out that with the exception of their game against Seneca Valley, each of their other losses have come in closely-contested matches that lasted four of five sets.

Another silver lining for North Hills (0-7, 0-6) early in the season was its performance in the Upper St. Clair tournament Sept. 17.

“We played extremely well in the tournament. We split games with North Allegheny, and they’re one of the better teams in the state,” Sondergard said. “Then, we also beat Bethel Park in two games, and they didn’t win any from us. So, we had a good day on Saturday, the girls played extremely well and they were competitive.”

Senior outside hitter Rachel Licastro and senior middle hitter Ingrid Spear have been stalwarts so far for the Indians as athletic finishers around the net.

Additionally, senior right-side hitter Anna Treser and junior setter Callie McClintock have been the team’s sparkplugs. If North Hills is lacking fire in a given match, Treser and McClintock have been the players Sondergard says have picked up the slack.

“There’s two girls, in particular, that I never have to worry about whether they want it or not,” she said. “They both have the desire to win, and they’re always working hard. I never have to worry that they’re not.”

Through the early-season struggles, sophomore Rachel Blakely has emerged as a constant source of energy, as well. During her freshman season, Blakely suffered a worrisome back injury that hampered her abilities. This year, however, she has really begun to shine.

“She was in a back brace for almost an entire year. But now she’s back and she jumps through the roof. She’s going to be an extremely valuable player for us,” Sondergard said.

“She is the most fun person to watch because she knows and understands how it feels to have the game taken away from you. Every time she goes in, she gives 110 percent.”

From here on out, the challenge for North Hills is going to be how it responds to its slow start. It will be an uphill climb, but Sondergard says they know the most important games of the season are yet to be decided.

“It’s still the beginning of the season, and we’re still learning. Luckily, we get a shot at every team twice,” the Indians coach said.

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.

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