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Trib Cup: Beaver girls volleyball celebrates 1st PIAA playoff win since 2001

With its PIAA Class AA first-round victory on Tuesday, the Beaver girls volleyball team is in postseason territory it hasn’t seen since 2001.

The Bobcats’ 3-0 opening round win over Bald Eagle Area marks the program’s first state playoff victory since it defeated Huntingdon in the first round 13 years ago.

“It was a very nice feeling,” said coach Charlene Horwatt, who has been involved with the program since 1996. “Just being in that position brought back a lot of memories from the past … as much as it was enjoyable in the present, when you’ve been around for awhile it also brought back great memories.”

On the heels of one the program’s biggest wins in more than a decade, the Bobcats (14-6) are spotlighted as this week’s Trib Total Media/WPXI High School Sports Award feature team and a big reason Beaver is in ninth place in the Class AAA standings.

Beaver advanced to the WPIAL semifinals after avenging two shutout victories against section champion Hopewell earlier in the year. The Bobcats lost to Thomas Jefferson in the semifinals but advanced to the PIAA tournament by making the final four.

“Because (Hopewell is) in your section, they’re local and you’ve been on the short end of the stick so many times against them … that win was a huge victory for the program,” Horwatt said of the WPIAL quarterfinal victory.

But for the young Bobcats team to even advance to the postseason, it had to overcome some growing pains early in the year to reel off four consecutive wins heading into the playoffs.

“We have quite a few young people we rely on in our lineup,” Horwatt said. “Any time you can get success under your belt, or a win, you definitely build confidence with younger players.

“You have to believe at the beginning of the season that you could go as high as your work ethic will take you. But in reality and on paper there’s no way we could have really predicted our success, I don’t think.”

Underclassmen such as freshmen middle hitters Macy McElhaney and Alexa Mamone and sophomores Tayven Rousseau, Sydney Caruso and Maddie Cicconi helped boost a team that returned just three starters from a year ago.

“I think with the younger players, the experience level isn’t there but they have a great mentality. They’re always open to coaching and critiques,” senior setter Allie Schmid said. “They’re a great group of girls, they’re willing to work hard and they’ve done a great job this season.”

But it was the upperclassmen, led by Schmid, senior middle/outside hitter Kayla Bulat and junior outside hitter Taylor Hineman that helped to bring along the young group as the season progressed.

Schmid posted 23 assists in the win over Bald Eagle Area while Bulat contributed 11 kills.

“The leadership that they have had has been as good or better as the actual execution of the skills,” Horwatt said.

As the Bobcats get set to face Corry in the PIAA quarterfinals on Saturday afternoon, Horwatt and her team are eager for a victory. Yet, if the win doesn’t present itself, Horwatt said she is still proud of what her group has accomplished this year and believes the upperclassmen have set a solid foundation for the future of the program.

“I think this has been a rewarding and well-deserved experience for my seniors,” Horwatt said. “It’s been an educational experience for my young players, and I think whatever happens, we are going to hold our heads up high.”

Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.


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