The Advocate

Volleyball clinches bid in playoffs

Erin+Carmody+%28in+black%29+saves+the+ball+as+teammate+J.C.+Longeville+%28toward+foreground%29+watches+in+a+match+against+Lock+Haven+in+the+Sports+Center+Oct.+12.+
Erin Carmody (in black) saves the ball as teammate J.C. Longeville (toward foreground) watches in a match against Lock Haven in the Sports Center Oct. 12.

Erin Carmody (in black) saves the ball as teammate J.C. Longeville (toward foreground) watches in a match against Lock Haven in the Sports Center Oct. 12.

Ali Single

Ali Single

Erin Carmody (in black) saves the ball as teammate J.C. Longeville (toward foreground) watches in a match against Lock Haven in the Sports Center Oct. 12.

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On Wednesday, the Pitt-Johnstown volleyball players clinched a conference playoff spot, in which  they will begin to defend their conference title.

Sophomore player J.C. Longeville, a member of last season’s conference championship team, said that repeating would be meaningful, considering the team’s rough start. 

“I think when we kind of went on a bit of a losing streak, we learned how to play with each other and figured out what works and does not,” Longeville said.  

On Sept. 14, their young season hit a low mark. Despite starting 4-0, they lost seven in a row, and lost to Clarion to open their 2018 conference schedule. 

Worse, the Clarion team who defeated them that day, didn’t make it out of the first round of the previous year’s playoffs.

Volleyball co-head coach Justin Haupt said the early struggles were primarily because the team has 10 freshmen on its 16 player roster, and they all had to learn to play with each other. 

“This team is extremely receptive to constructive criticism, and they are all hungry to improve,” Haupt said soon after the loss. 

Despite growing pains, the players improved. After the Clarion loss, they have gone 12-5, for a 16-12 record overall. 

One of the players who has embraced the challenge was senior Maura Brehl, who, in October, won their conference division’s Player of the Week award three consecutive times.

“I think that knowing what it’s like to lose some tough games, like we experienced in the beginning of the season, it keeps us humble and makes winning those harder games later on sweeter,” Brehl said. 

Brehl said the improvement process hasn’t always just been about everyone getting better at their position. 

“Every day brings its new challenges, people getting injured, having to learn new defensive plays, like blocking, but they all make us better at adapting to anything that gets thrown our way,” Brehl said. 

According to Brehl, the versatility in having to learn these new plays is partially what contributed to the team’s improvement.

In addition, Brehl said that there have been three players who have most contributed to the improvement: Longeville, and freshmen Erin Carmody and Hailey Mackenthun. 

Mackenthun said  because of the team’s rough start, she didn’t know whether the team would have been in the playoffs, but it’s awesome to be sure. 

Despite this, however, Mackenthun said that she is doesn’t want anyone getting ahead of themselves.

“The games this weekend are still important for our record, and can help us move up in the playoff seedings and maybe in the regional rankings. They are games we need to win,” Mackenthun said. 

The team had two matches left on its schedule, the first Friday against Bloomsburg University and the second one Satuday Lock Haven University. Both are road games. 

Carmody said, like Mackenthun, she doesn’t want the players to get ahead of themselves and that they needed to take care of business over the weekend. 

“We are fifth, and the top eight teams make it to the playoffs, so the next couple of matches are crucial for us to win,” Carmody said. 

Carmody said that winning the conference championship again would be huge for the team because of its freshmen-heavy roster. 

Volleyball players won both of their games this weekend with scores 3-0.

The players are to be competing for the team’s third conference championship since joining the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference in 2013.    

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Volleyball clinches bid in playoffs