The Lady Lions appear to make another serious run at the AAA title with a 39-6 overall record, a 6-0 mark in Area 5AAA and the No. 2 ranking in the latest Georgia PrepCountry.com AAA poll behind 5AAA rival and defending state champion Blessed Trinity as of last Thursday.
With a 15-match winning streak going into last Thursday’s match with archrival Marist, St. Pius coach John Frederick is encouraged by his team’s progress.
“We’re very pleased with where we’re at right now,” Frederick said. “We tested ourselves against some pretty good competition and came out pretty well.”
St. Pius, which has never won a state volleyball title, fell just short of the ultimate goal with a loss to Blessed Trinity in the AAA finals last year and a defeat at the hands of Sandy Creek in the championship match in 2011.
“I think it’s something [our players] think about fairly regularly, but we try not to dwell on it all that much,” Frederick said. “We’ve been runner-up three times in the past five years and we’re not going to put all our worth into one game at the end of the season. But, on the other hand, that’s the goal we’re all trying for, to win a state championship. That’s what we’re all trying for at the start. So, we use it as a motivation to keeping working hard, to get better.”
St. Pius continued its roll with a strong performance at the Rocky Top Classic in Karns, Tenn., where the Lady Lions won all eight of their matches to win the tournament title.
“It was certainly a good level of competition and we were put to the test in some of the matches, but we were able to be successful and win the tournament,” Frederick said.
Senior outside hitter and co-captain Leah Hardeman, a Coastal Carolina commitment, leads the way on the court for a deep and talented St. Pius squad.
“Our strength is clearly our depth,” Frederick said. “We have a stud hitter in Leah, but the 13 other people on the roster are very interchangeable. We can move people in and out and not have a whole lot of drop off. We can change our lineups and keep our play at the same high level. We are very, very deep as a program.”
Senior setter and co-captain Katrina Connolly led the team in aces (71) and assists (621) as of last Thursday, while junior middle blocker Kathryn Maloof leads in hitting percentage (.432) and junior Ryan Boykin has moved from the front row to provide strong play at libero.