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Girls look to build off 2022 season

The Catasauqua girls volleyball team opened a lot of eyes this past fall, and their hope is the program turned a corner, paving the way for future success.

First year head coach John Cesanek even helped to guide the Rough Riders to a District 11 playoff berth, one that wound up being a 3-0 loss to eventual champ Notre Dame.

However, it was an earlier-season match against the Crusaders that may have set the stage. The team nearly knocked off Executive Charter and Salem in previous matches before taking on Notre Dame.

“Even though the girls lost in three sets, they began to show signs of confidence and their skills of volleyball, especially defense and serving became apparent,” Cesanek said about the earlier season matchup. “They hung right in there with Notre Dame and were always within striking distance. Even the coach said to my girls they were a completely different team this year versus last year.”

While the Catty offense wasn’t always considered strong, the team would stay in games and even win some with their defense.

“While we lacked a strong offense, our defense and serving strengthened and challenged the best of teams,” Cesanek said.

Following the Notre Dame contest, Catty picked up a win against Allen before the schedule got tough. The team would add wins against Palmerton and Tamaqua and eventually finish 6-13 and edge their way into the district playoffs.

“The biggest improvements I’ve seen in my girls, by far, is their defense and serving and their tenacity to always fight back when they are down and to stay on top when they’re winning. Each game they develop more confidence and the positive chatter coming in about the girls from so many other parents, referees and coaches of other teams is a huge motivation as well,” Cesanek said.

“[Our] record does not show their true potential and grit that they play with on the court. Many of my girls have improved many times over during this season, especially our JVs. Our defense alone it’s amazing to watch as they have stolen many kills from some of the leagues best hitters, I am so very proud of all of them.”

Cesanek paid tribute to his seniors who moved on after this past fall season:

Alana Henry and Kayla Cunningham both had their confidence grow and blossom midway through the season, he said. Briell Carvalho was one of the most solid, all-around players on the team with an unorthodox, but lethal and consistent serve. Cesanek called Angelis Ramos-Pichardo one of the quieter girls, but also one of the most consistent and aggressive. Cora Soltis was also quiet but a force to be reckoned with, especially at the net. Cesanek called her one of the team’s best passers. Olivia Burnett also started to shine midway through the season and saw her playing time increase as a result.

Among the girls returning next year are Delaine Popa, a setter, Jane Armbruster, who passes and plays defense, Amanda Hunsburger, who specializes in passing, defense and back row attacks, Lauren Delong, a setter, and Delaney Troxell, who is one of the team’s most powerful hitters. Malaya Walp, Makayla Bird and Kara Gruver were double-rostered players.

“I could not have asked for better assistant coaches. Edward Popa and Stephan Hess are two of the easiest people to get along with and that makes coaching that much easier,” Cesanek said. “Furthermore, the three of us are usually on the same wavelength, which makes practices and drills that much easier. I’m grateful to have them as coaches.”