Notebook: Thomas Jefferson volleyball earns No. 3 seed in playoffs

November 15, 2018

Notebook items from around the South Hills:

• Thomas Jefferson and Laurel Highlands tied for first place in Section 3-3A in girls volleyball this season, as the Jaguars won their seventh consecutive section title and ninth in 10 years.

TJ and Laurel Highlands finished 13-1, followed by Elizabeth Forward (10-4) and Albert Gallatin (8-6).

It’s been a steadfast approach from Day 1 of the season for the talented Jaguars team, which landed the No. 3 seed for the WPIAL Class 3A playoffs.

“Our process consists of conditioning and a lot of hard work at practice,” 5-foot-9 junior outside hitter Ashleigh Haines said before the start of the WPIAL playoffs. “Everyone on the team is benefiting. At every practice, we work on our serve-receive, passing and hitting, and it shows on the court. Our team has such a strong bond and we all work so well with each other.”

The Jaguars have gone 75-3 in section play over the past six seasons.

• Senior running back Max Shaw tied the team record for points in a game in Thomas Jefferson’s 70-21 conference win Oct. 19 against Greensburg Salem.

Shaw scored six touchdowns -- on runs of 10, 5, 1, 30, 1 and 9 yards -- in two-and-a-half quarters to tie the team record set by Wayne Fisher in 1965 and duplicated by Jon Drager in 2003.

For his efforts, Shaw was named the Trib HSSN Football Player of the Week.

“It feels great to be nominated for player of the week,” Shaw said. “It’s a great mention, and I’m very grateful for the nomination, but again I just need to do everything I can for us to be playing in December.

“This game was definitely one of my better ones based off stats alone. Either way, I still focus more on being consistent with my play each week and doing everything I can to help the team win. The line deserves just as much credit, too. They’ve been dominating all year.”

Shaw ran for 281 yards on 25 carries, boosting his season totals to 1,001 yards on 93 carries. That’s an average of 10.8 yards per attempt, with a team-leading 22 touchdowns.

• The Baldwin girls volleyball team won the 27th section championship in school history, earning the Section 2-4A title.

The Highlanders, who drew the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye for the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs, ended up 13-1 in the section, ahead of Oakland Catholic (11-3), Bethel Park (10-4) and Peters Township (7-7).

Baldwin has captured section titles in four of the past five seasons and was crowned WPIAL Class AAA champion in 2014 and ’15. Baldwin won 17 consecutive section titles from 1977-93 and was state champion four times -- from 1989-91 and in 1995.

• The three seniors on Baldwin’s girls volleyball team -- Kerri Herron, Flannery Larson and Mackenzie Meis -- were recognized before the final home game Oct. 9 against Canon-McMillan.

Herron is a 5-foot-3 defensive specialist. Larson is a 5-8 right-side hitter. Meis is a 5-1 libero. All three are members of the National Honor Society.

Herron, who also competes on the track and field team, participates in several other extracurricular activities. She is chairperson of the Social Club and senior class prom committee and is a member of the Special Olympics program, Math League, Bridge Builders and Spanish Club.

She plans to attend college to become a pediatric nurse practitioner.

Larson is vice president of the Latin Club and is a member of the Musical and Science clubs and Math League. She anticipates majoring in chemical engineering in college.

Meis participates in the Bridge Builders, Math League and Special Olympics program. She will study forensic psychology or forensic science in college.

• One of the most evenly matched games in the first round of the WPIAL girls soccer playoffs took place in Class 3A despite the teams’ records.

Fourth-ranked Ambridge slipped past No. 13 Thomas Jefferson, 2-1, in a shootout. The Bridgers won 4-3 on penalty kicks.

Ambridge improved to 14-2-2. TJ ended its season at 8-11.

“Honestly, we played really well defensively,” TJ coach Jason Vozar said, “but had a hard time generating many chances. The same for Ambridge.”

• Five assistant coaches in the Thomas Jefferson football program are former TJ players: Chris Drager, Jon Drager, Pat Oster, T.J. Srsic and Trevor Wildman.

Chris Drager played tight end/defensive end, Oster and Srsic were linemen, Wildman played wide receiver/defensive back position and Jon Drager started at running back/defensive back.

Jon Drager still holds several team records.

• Coach Michael “Doc” Kulish welcomed eight goalkeepers to the Thomas Jefferson boys soccer program at the start of this season.

They were: junior Jack Wessel, the Jaguars varsity starter; seniors Connor Dalton and Justin Scott; freshmen Alex Day and Evan Savikas; sophomores Alex Folino and Colin O’Dea; plus freshman A.J. Getsy, who switched to starting defender on the varsity team.

• Senior forward Preston Lutz knocked in the winner in overtime as No. 12 Thomas Jefferson defeated No. 5 Blackhawk, 2-1, in the first round of the WPIAL Class 3A boys soccer playoffs.

Senior midfielder A.J. Meshanko also scored for the Jaguars, who played Ringgold in the quarterfinals.

• Sophomore forward Heran Pradhan, complemented by junior striker Shashak Gurung and sophomore forward Ben Betz, led No. 7 Brentwood to a 4-2 win over No. 10 Serra Catholic in the first round of the WPIAL Class A boys soccer playoffs.

Pradhan had two goals against the Eagles, and Gurung and Betz added one apiece.

Brentwood met No. 2 Greensburg Central Catholic in the quarterfinals.

• Brentwood’s girls volleyball team tied for second place with Fort Cherry with a 9-3 record in Section 3-A this season.

The Spartans received the sixth seed for the WPIAL Class A playoffs.

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