Drop in classification doesn’t change underdog mentality for Latrobe volleyball

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Tuesday, September 20, 2022 | 11:29 AM


In volleyball at Latrobe — no matter the classification, the ranking, the opponent — longtime Coach Drew Vosefski has continued to Preach a singular theme: “Go into every match as if you’re the underdog.”

There’s something to prove against other teams with similar pride, Vosefski maintains.

“Your opponent isn’t just going to roll over and die,” he said. “They want to win, too.”

With 10 seniors, led by setter Lily Fenton, Latrobe has begun the season with momentum, winning its first four matches, including two in Section 5-3A of the WPIAL, heading into another scheduled section encounter Thursday at home with Franklin Regional.

A drop in level for Latrobe from Class 4A did little to change the mentality Vosefski continues to embrace in his 18th season as Coach of the Wildcats girls team.

“As of right now, it doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “We’ve competed in Quad-A for as long as I can remember, and people knew they were going to get a (tough) match from us each night out. We’ll continue to take that approach in Triple-A.”

Fenton, who recently committed to Notre Dame, returns for her fourth high school season needing a handful of assists to reach 1,000 for her career.

She accepted a preferred walk-on offer from Notre Dame, spurning other Division I offers from St. Francis (Pa.) and Loyola (Md.). She’ll join a team coached by Penn Hills native Salima Rockwell, a former Penn State star.

“She is a legend,” Fenton said of Rockwell, who retired from coaching in 2017 as associate head coach at Penn State only to return in January to take the Notre Dame job.

Other returning starters for Latrobe are 6-foot-1 senior middle hitter Emma Blair, 6-2 senior middle/opposite Paige Watson and junior outside hitters Maya Krehlik and Elle Snyder.

“Emma Blair and Paige Watson are my two middle bookends,” Vosefski said. “With their height, it makes other teams think. They’re both really quick, tall and talented.”

Vosefski has been thrilled with the versatility Krehlik and Snyder have shown.

“Their defense is as good as their offense,” he said.

The senior trio of outside hitter Ryley Quinn and defensive specialists Giovanna Jones and Gabriella Sukay have strengthened the Latrobe lineup, and Vosefski said the group’s athleticism and court intelligence should help keep the Wildcats in games.

Latrobe is among seven teams aligned in Section 5-3A, joining Armstrong, Franklin Regional, Greensburg Salem, Highlands, Indiana and Kiski Area.

“We respect whoever we play in volleyball because it’s that kind of sport,” Vosefski said. “So far, it’s been hard to gauge what the differences are in Quad-A and Triple-A. There are some great teams in Quad-A and we know that, having been familiar with them for so long.”

Class 4A teams this season total 16 in the WPIAL, a format of three sections made up of five teams in each of two sections and six in the remaining one.

A total of 36 teams make up Class 3A with four seven-team sections and one with eight.

“Across the board, I’d say there are more competitive teams in Triple-A than in Quad-A simply because there are more teams in Triple-A,” Vosefski said. “Every section seems to have three or four solid teams.”

For all his efforts — Vosefski also coaches the boys team — the Latrobe girls program hasn’t made it past a WPIAL quarterfinals round.

“We’re just hoping our skill, our ability and our program will be good enough to get us to the finals,” Vosefski said. “It would be nice to be able to put a ‘W’ there for the first time in history.”

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