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Thomas Jefferson volleyball chasing 6th straight section crown

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Seniors on the 2017 Thomas Jefferson girls volleyball team include, in front, from left, Marlana Werberber, Makayla Falk and Nicole Salzman; in back, Megan Birch, Morgan Yurkovich, Sarah Fullard, Hailey Trainer and Savannah Vernet.
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Thomas Jefferson senior Morgan Yurkovich is a two-time All-WPIAL selection.

Morgan Yurkovich is a two-time all-WPIAL and all-section member of the Thomas Jefferson girls volleyball team.

An energetic 5-foot-8 senior setter, Yurkovich is looking to lead the Jaguars to another banner season in 2017.

The Thomas Jefferson netters have won five consecutive section championships, and seven in the past eight seasons.

“Our expectations for this season are to first become section champs, then WPIAL champs, then be state champs,” said Yurkovich, an all-state selection last year who will be a fourth-year letter winner this season. “Everything is one step at a time for us, and it starts every day with each practice and conditioning.

“One of our major strengths is the chemistry on the team. Everyone genuinely likes each other and wants to be there working hard.”

Yurkovich recently made a verbal commitment to Pitt-Johnstown.

“One of the reasons I chose Pitt-Johnstown is because I love the location, right in the mountains, and the campus is so green and wooded,” Yurkovich said. “I also loved the professors. They make it a priority to connect with all of their students and give them the best opportunities.

“And when I met the coaches, it all just came together. They are such supportive and positive people that have a great passion for the game.”

Another team leader at TJ is Makayla Falk, a 5-5 senior outside hitter and all-section player who, like Yurkovich, is a third-year starter.

Falk and Yurkovich are joined by four returning starters in seniors Sarah Fullard, at middle hitter; and Savannah Vernet, at right-side hitter; plus juniors Sydney Moran, at libero; and Julia Micklo, at defensive specialist.

Others looking to make an impact this season include seniors Hailey Trainer (OH), Megan Birch (OH), Nicole Saltzman (DS) and Mimi Werderber (DS); as well as juniors Julia Fiedor (S), Mia Como (DS), Jaqueline Rush (RS), Haleigh Karcher (OH) and Alanna Lynch (MH).

“This year, there is so much depth to the team, (with) so many athletes able to play every position,” Yurkovich said. “We are such a well-rounded team, and I have full confidence in every player. All we need is the opportunity. Why not us?”

Top sophomore prospects include outside hitters Natasha Yanief, Kaitlyn Urbanowicz, Ashleigh Haines, Julia Putignano, Isabella Bucy and Tanner Patrick; middle hitter Tyler Turk; setter Abby Chalovich; and defensive specialists Jenna Kisner (DS) and Anna Janosko (DS).

Turk, at 6-foot, and Fullard, at 5-11, are the tallest players in the program.

Freshman netters at TJ consist of Jacqueline Guenther (DS), Celia Dobransky (L), Paige Ramsey (OH), Jenna Fox (S), Alexys Wagner (DS), Abby Thompson (OH), Claire Whalen (S), Lillian Rockwell (MH) and Jordan Snyder (S).

Thomas Jefferson finished 12-0 in Section 2-AAA last season, finishing ahead of Elizabeth Forward (10-2), Laurel Highlands (8-4), Albert Gallatin (6-6), Uniontown (3-9), Yough (2-10) and Belle Vernon (1-11).

The Jaguars, coached by Ron Kelly and Angie Yurkovich and Natalie Meyer, tipped off the regular season Saturday in the annual Big South tournament.

Ray Fisher is a freelance writer.

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