Content Courtesy of the Trib HSSN:
The Norwin boys volleyball team is hoping to end the season the way it began, and there’s a good chance that could happen.
On March 23, the Knights invited some of the WPIAL’s most talented teams to their annual tournament, and they won the whole thing. It was nothing personal to their guests, the Knights were just living up to their expectations.
“I’m excited about this team,” second-year coach Nick Fallone said. “I think a big part of being successful is not getting too high, too low and having a mindset of growth.”
Norwin, which came out of nowhere last season to finish second in Section 3-AAA and make a short run in the WPIAL playoffs, is all grown up, playing with an edge and ready to deliver payback to their rivals.
“They’re hungry,” Fallone said. “We have a lot of potential, and I believe we can make some noise this season.”
Fallone called his “potential” together before a recent practice and let them know their tournament performance didn’t go unnoticed. He told his team they were in the No. 2-spot of the Western Pa. Volleyball Coaches Association Class AAA rankings.
“He brought us around and told us that he was happy for us, and that it means nothing right now,” senior outside hitter Jake Williams said. “It’s early in the season, and we still have a ways to go.
“It was a good way to start the practice, and we were really excited.”
Of course, when a coach offers praise this early in the season, it’s almost always followed by a dose of humility.
“I told them, they got all excited, but in the same breath, I pulled in the reins,” said Fallone, a 2008 Norwin grad. “It’s early, but ultimately, rankings don’t mean much to me. What matters is what we do on Tuesdays and Thursdays. While I appreciate the ranking, it’s not something that I spend anytime thinking about.”
Norwin (2-0, 2-0) chalked up its first victory of the season with a 3-0 sweep of Penn Hills to open Section 3-AAA play on March 26. On March 28, the Knights beat Plum, 3-0.
Williams spent time thinking about success.
Heck, Norwin’s early-season optimism is almost deja vu for the Geneva volleyball commit. He remembers a few years ago when he and his teammates were riding the bus home from an Ambridge futures tournament when it became apparent the Knights had something special brewing.
“(Noah) Gross, (Jakob) Bindas, (Nathan) Pogue and Joey Ferrogonia, the core of our team was there, and we said that we can definitely be special senior year if we keep working hard,” Williams said.
Fallone returns five experienced starters from a squad that lost to Butler in the 2018 WPIAL quarterfinals. Now the Knights have the experience to go with the talent.
“Last year, we played the underdog role pretty well, but this year, we’re ranked No. 2 in the WPIAL right now and we have a target,” Fallone said.
Wearing those targets will be the 6-foot-1 Williams at outside hitter, seniors Jared Valenti at middle hitter, Noah Gross at right-side hitter and Jake Bindas at Libero. Juniors in 6-2 outside hitter Joey Ferragonio and setter Cameron Polczynski round out the starting lineup.
“(Polczynski) is another good athlete,” Fallone said. “It’s his first year as a full-time starter. Ultimately, he’s in control of the offense.”
Senior Nate Pogue will come off the bench and get time at outside hitter. Emerging standout in 6-4 sophomore lefty Joshua Govannucci is expected to challenge for time at right-side hitter.
“(Govannucci) has got a lot of potential, and he’s going to help us out,” Fallone said.
The Knights left Monday’s practice with not only a renewed sense of confidence but added pressure. Williams and his teammates have been looking forward to that for a while.
“I do feel pressure, but at the same time, I think we want to feel pressure,” Williams said. “Everyday we come in with the mindset that we are the underdogs, and we have a lot to prove still.”
William Whalen is a freelance writer.