Penn Hills girls volleyball displays improvement throughout season
The theme for the Penn Hills girls volleyball team was “Trust the Team.” That theme was tested on and off the court this season.
The Indians finished 7-10 overall with a 2-10 record in Section 3-4A.
Penn Hills captured wins over Gateway, Woodland Hills, Carrick, Allderdice and Trinity Christian, while sweeping the season series against Plum.
“We were dramatically improved, but we weren’t good enough to overcome the talent and experience of the rest of the section,” coach Jay Mitlo said.
Senior middle hitter Kelsey Lydic and senior Deshaya Chavis led the Indians. Lydic and Chavis, along with junior outside hitter Yasmine Logan, were the team’s captains.
The Indians had difficulty matching the experience level that many of their section foes have with their exposure to playing volleyball at the club level.
However, the Indians tried to overcome the lack of experience with their dedication to offseason conditioning and constant will to improve during practices.
“Over the summer, many of the girls would come and do conditioning. I think that played a big factor in helping us,” Lydic said.
“When we started off, we were rocky, and the past couple of seasons were rough for us. But we came to practice and put in the work. We gave it our all in every game that we could.”
Mitlo saw improvement as the season progressed as they took Norwin to five games, while losing to Latrobe and Penn-Trafford in four games each.
Mitlo was pleased with Chavis’ progress on the court.
“At one point during the season, I wanted to award her the black belt in defense. She understood the game and she was able to read plays long before they happened. That is something, as a defensive-minded person myself, I was very happy to see her accomplish,” Mitlo said.
As one of the leaders on the team, Lydic took her role seriously by making sure her voice, as well as that of her teammates and classmates, was heard during the school’s conflict involving Connellsville.
In early September, Connellsville players allegedly called Penn Hills players racial slurs during a boys soccer match.
A few weeks later, the Connellsville girls volleyball team traveled to Penn Hills accompanied by armed security, which drew concerns from members at Penn Hills.
The WPIAL ruled Connellsville didn’t break any rules by bringing an armed security guard to the match and two other sporting events that week.
After the WPIAL ruling, many of those involved with the Penn Hills girls volleyball program believed it would be best not to travel to Connellsville for a match in mid-October, as they did not feel welcome in the Connellsville community.
With many of the Penn Hills students affected by the Connellsville events, Lydic thought it was necessary for the public to know why and how the team came to the decision to forfeit the match. Lydic penned an open letter that was provided to the Trib.
“There were many athletes from the girls and boys soccer teams that were upset. No one really wanted to speak out. I just wanted to speak out for my classmates and let people know how we were feeling,” Lydic said.
“I made the decision with my coach to let people know why we don’t want to come. It’s not because we’re scared or they brought armed guards. We just didn’t feel welcomed into the community. I wanted to do it so people knew where we were coming from with it all. I wanted to give a player’s perspective.”
On the court, the Indians will have five starters returning next season. They will look to replace Lydic and Chavis. Penn Hills also will return Logan and junior libero Vanessa Persichetti.
“We’re very excited for the outlook next season,” Mitlo said. “What will determine our level of success will be their level of commitment to growth in the offseason.”