Thomas Jefferson girls volleyball chasing 7th straight section championship
The Thomas Jefferson girls volleyball team has been dominant in section play in recent years.
The Jaguars have won six consecutive section titles, and eight in the last nine seasons.
Over the past five years, the TJ netters have posted a 62-2 record in section matches and have gone undefeated four times.
The Jaguars rolled to a 12-0 section record last season, then went 3-1 in the WPIAL playoffs to secure third place and qualify for the PIAA tournament.
TJ’s starting rotation a year ago consisted of four seniors, three juniors and three sophomores.
With a stellar group of returning players, the Jaguars are looking to make another strong showing this season.
“We should be solid,” coach Ron Kelly said. “I have very high expectations for this year’s team. We have a strong nucleus returning; I am hoping we exceed last year’s accomplishments.”
Thomas Jefferson is led by a pair of third-year senior starters in libero Sydney Moran and defensive specialist Julia Micklo. Both were all-section selections a year ago.
“Overall, our goal is to work on our skills individually, so it benefits the team as a whole,” said Moran, who’s made a verbal commitment to Duquesne. “Our next goal after that is to win the section title, and then to claim the WPIAL championship.
“Our strength lies more on the team’s defensive end. We are a scrappy and determined program to get every single ball up. However, our serve-receive is strong, as well, which allows a lot of opportunities for our offense to perform.”
Four other returning starters are senior Julia Fiedor, a defensive specialist; and juniors Tanner Patrick (outside hitter), Natashia Yanief (middle hitter) and Tyler Turk (middle hitter).
Patrick and Turk were all-section selections last year.
“We will be an excellent a serve-receive and defensive team with all of our primary passers returning,” Kelly said. “Both middle hitters return, which will help dictate our offense. We have a very good serving team with a variety of serves.
“We are working on first ball a lot. Even though it is a strength, it is very important. So we serve and serve-receive daily and push the girls to a high standard.”
The Jaguars’ early season lineup will consist of junior setter Abby Chalovich, Turk and Yanief as middle hitters; Patrick and junior Ashleigh Haines as outside hitters; senior Jaqueline Rush and sophomore Lillian Rockwell as right-side hitters; Micklo, Fiedor and senior Mia Como in the back row; and Moran at libero.
Key reserves include senior Alanna Lynch (MH), junior Kaitlyn Urbanowicz (OH); junior defensive specialists Jenna Kisner, Anna Janosko, Julia Putignano and Bella Regna; and freshman prospect Julia Palmer (OH).
“Putting together a starting lineup is still in the making,” Kelly said. “We are looking at different combinations and matchups. We are also conditioning daily, and working on being both physically and mentally strong.
“We don’t have a superstar, but we have a lot of really good players. The junior class has all the hitters; the senior class has all the passers.”
The section standings last season ended up as follows: TJ (12-0), Elizabeth Forward (9-3), Laurel Highlands (9-3), Yough (5-7), Uniontown (4-8), Albert Gallatin (3-9), Belle Vernon (0-12).
The same seven teams, plus Ringgold, are members of Section 3-AAA this season.
The TJ girls open the first week of section play Sept. 4 at home against Uniontown, and Sept. 6 on the road against Belle Vernon.