Boys Volleyball Preview: Area volleyball teams look to duke it out for D-10 title this spring

Mar. 27—Crawford County boys volleyball teams saw a lot of success in 2023, and this season looks to be more of the same.

Last year, five locals were named to the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association All-State team and 12 made the District 10 All-Region teams. Two area teams were featured in the PVCA's top 10 poll and it was an all-District 10 PIAA semifinal match between Cochranton and Mercyhurst Prep.

This year features plenty of roster turnover, as four of the five all-staters and nine of the 12 all-region selections graduated. Local teams will reload and duke it out for a District 10 championship. The top two teams in the district playoffs will move on to the PIAA playoffs.


Meadville had a rare playoff upset loss last season to break the Bulldogs' streak of three consecutive PIAA championship appearances. The Bulldogs lost to Mercyhurst Prep, who won the D-10 title, in the district semifinal round last season.

"We have moved on from the loss. We have not forgotten, but we have turned our focus to this year," Meadville head coach Nick Bancroft said. "We have a very talented and deep roster this year. We really have a lot of questions that need to be answered.

"We have a group of experienced upperclassmen and a very talented pool of underclassmen who will be fighting for varsity playing time."

Gone from last year's team are three seniors, Jackson Decker, Hunter Graham and Isaac Johnson. Decker, a 6-foot 4-inch outside hitter, was a three-time all-state selection and is playing for Division I St. Francis. Graham was a starting libero and Johnson saw a lot of playing time at outside hitter.

This year's crop of seniors is Alex Burgess, Angelo Mangine, Jacob Graham, Jack Brown, Luca White and Kyle Peterson. Bancroft said playing time is not guaranteed for anyone and that it's a competitive group.

"Jack, Jacob, Ben (Fiely), Kellen (Ball), Luc (Soerensen), and Luca have the most varsity experience time, but they know that nothing is guaranteed," Bancroft said. "Our practices are going to be very competitive and fun, with the likes of Aslan (Shaffer), Brennan (Decker), Parker (Gosnell), Kyle, Alex, Tymir (Phillips) and Max (Decker) all chomping to get on the floor."

Brown is a returning all-region setter. Soerensen is a returning all-state honorable mention and all-region selection. The 6-foot 7-inch sophomore played outside hitter as a freshman.

Meadville opened its season with a sweep against Cochranton. The Bulldogs finished second at the Meadville tournament and beat Saegertown on Tuesday.

"Our goals always remain the same each year. We want to improve each week and bring our best game to every match," Bancroft said. "Hopefully we have learned to never take anything for granted and that it's tough to win. I have no doubt that these guys are ready to show everyone what they are made of."


The Cochranton Cardinals had a historic 2023 season. The team made the PIAA final for the first time in program history and had three all-state selections.

Last year also marked the third straight season the Cards advanced to the state playoffs, and second straight they played in the state semifinals.

This season, those three all-staters — Chase Miller, Andrew Custead and Landon Homa — have graduated. Head coach Rob Cierniakoski will look to returning starters Dawson Carroll, Noah Cummings and Brady Rynd to fill the leadership void.

Carroll will move from libero to setter. Cummings and Rynd will start at outside hitter for the Cards.

Other players with limited starting experience who will see a lot of it this season are Gavin Sekerski, Fisher Dudzic, and Jude Wagner.

"This year's seniors have been a part of our last few playoff runs and that experience should help us down the stretch," Cierniakoski said. "Our goal is to get at least one percent better each day, if we do that and stay healthy, we like our chances."

Cochranton will play in the Northeastern, Shaler and Meadville tournaments this spring.

The Cardinals beat McDowell in an season opener before losing to Meadville at the House of Thrills.


The Conneaut volleyball team finished the 2023 season with five wins and a first-round postseason exit to eventual District 10 champion Mercyhurst Prep.

Gone from last year's roster is all-region outside hitter Nolan Rados. This season, the Eagles return more depth than in previous seasons.

"This year, we are continuing to stress basic fundamentals to build a solid foundation both offensively and defensively. We have a sound roster of 19 this year, and we're excited to get into the season," Conneaut assistant coach Jennifer Klink said. "With a large portion of our roster spots filled by returning players, we have more depth on the bench than in past years; this will also allow our JV, some of whom are first-time players, to concentrate on improving skills and gaining experience at the JV level."

Conneaut will lean on seniors Tristan Shelatz, Brevin Klink, Maxx Feather and Carson Alsdorf.

"For Varsity, we'll look to our four seniors to be leaders, but we have a reliable group of underclassmen who will also contribute this season," Klink said. "As for our team goals, we hope to improve upon last year's record and continue to grow our program."

The Eagles will compete in the Meadville tournament, Deer Lakes tournament and Cochranton tournament this season, as well the run of local District 10 teams.


Saegertown finished the 2023 campaign 10-6 overall and with another District 10 semifinal exit.

Gone from that team are Brady Greco, an all-region setter now playing at Hiram College, as well as all-region libero Sam Hetrick and all-region middle hitter Quincy Zook, now playing at Trine.

"We lost three seniors that were key last year in Brady, Quincy and Sam. But we have some younger guys and some experience to hopefully fill their shoes," Saegertown head coach Justin Johnson said. "At setter, freshman Jackson Scott will have a learning curve but so far in practice and scrimmages has performed nicely. At libero I look for Westin Baker and Mason Alio to both get some reps in that position.

"Both had a great offseason and will do a good job filling in for Sam. Quincy was a big part of our offense last season but we have some experience coming back in the middle with Grant Anthony."

Returning starters that will be leaned on offensively are Collin Jones and Sam Draa. Both are athletic outside hitters. Also returning is Cody Huson, who is back for his second season of volleyball.

"Collin and Sam will have big roles as leaders and offensive leaders of our team," Johnson said. "They're great all-around players. Cody will also see a greatly increased role. His progression after only playing for one season has been phenomenal."

Saegertown will compete at the Meadville, Northeastern, Hempfield and Shaler tournaments this season, in addition to its District 10 schedule. Saegertown opened the season with a win against McDowell before losing to Meadville.

"It'll be a good mix of younger and older guys stepping up. Alio, Baker, and sophomore Josh Weaver will all be getting significant varsity time," Johnson said. "If we can gel and some of the younger guys can improve, I expect to compete for a D-10 title and beyond.

"We have a little bit of the early season injury bug at the moment. Hopefully in the next few weeks we get everyone healthy and ready to roll."

Cambridge Springs

The Cambridge Springs boys volleyball team will be coached by John Turner, also the girls head coach, this season. He takes over for Kyle Marzka and will be assisted by his son, John Turner Jr.

Cambridge finished 5-10 last season and lost to Saegertown in the opening round of the District 10 tournament. This year, Turner is hoping his group of talented seniors can improve on the team's record and progress in the district tournament.

"Right now we have to get down to basics, moving, talking, typical volleyball," Turner said. "We have a nice senior group I think. It's gonna take a little bit to get used to everything that we need to do. I think we'll be okay. The rough thing this year, right from the get-go, basketball was still playing so we really only had a few days of practice before the season started."

The Blue Devils will be led by senior outside hitter Parker Schmidt. Schmidt, standing at 6-feet 5-inches tall, had 27 kills in the team's season opening loss against Fort LeBoeuf.

"He is gonna be someone we depend on," Turner said. "For leadership and really everything. We have him swinging outside this year."

Setter Darrin Peterson, outside hitter Ian Anderson and middle hitter Hunter Rose, all seniors, will be starters this season. Juniors Devin Laniewicz and Seth Glenn will be the team's middle hitter and libero, respectively. Freshman outside hitter Isaiah Simpson is also expected to playing meaningful minutes this season.

Cambridge lost the season opener to Fort LeBoeuf 3-2, but it was an encouraging match, according to Turner.

"Last year if we won one, we lost the next three. Or we won two and would lose the next three. The kids didn't buckle down and come back," Turner said. "In the opener we battled back and got to five sets. It was nice to see that, but it's a work in progress."

Turner is looking for his team to improve everyday and hopefully make some noise in the District 10 playoffs.

"We want to get better. Day by day, practice by practice, game by game," Turner said. "It's not how fast you come out of the gate, it's how you finish. As long as we get into districts we have a chance."


Maplewood returns for year two of its rebirth. Last year was Maplewood's first year fielding a varsity team after two years without enough players.

Last season saw the Tigers finish with a 2-9 record under head coach Calum Hyde. Maplewood got wins against Cathedral Prep and Farrell.

The 2023 team was very young. It featured 21 players with a majority of underclassmen.

This season, the team should take a step forward with a year of experience under its belt.

Alex Topor can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at