The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

November 21, 2013

Momentum with UPJ in PSAC volleyball semifinal

Mike Mastovich

JOHNSTOWN — The Pitt-Johnstown women’s volleyball program is hoping a banner week in the PSAC only gets better today.

The Lady Cats swept Lock Haven in three sets on Tuesday night at the Sports Center to advance to today’s PSAC semifinal round against Gannon University.

On Wednesday, UPJ outside hitter Marissa Erminio was named PSAC Eastern Division Freshman of the Year.

“It means so much. My team has worked so hard this year to get us to where we’re at,” said Erminio after a Thursday evening practice at Shippensburg University, which will host the semifinal and final rounds of the conference tournament. “They definitely helped me.

“We always practice really hard. We connect really well.”

Erminio joined senior middle hitter Beth Kendera of Conemaugh Valley and freshman setter Allison Mondorff on the PSAC Eastern Division First Team all-conference.

Junior outside hitter Kelsey Shanabrook was a second-team selection.

 “The girls have been very receptive to the things (assistant coach) Justin (Haupt) and I changed,” said first-year UPJ head coach Joanna Haupt. “They’re hard workers and that just makes our job easier.”

Erminio was a two-time PSAC East Player of the Week en route to leading the Lady Cats in kills (446), points per set (3.63) and points (493.5), while Kendera paced the team in blocks (133) and was third in both kills (297) and points (383.5). 

Mondorff, who broke the Lady Cats' single-season assists mark as a true freshman, has 1,216 assists this season and ranks 65th in NCAA Division II in assists per set at 9.97.

 Shanabrook is second on the team in kills (341), kills per set (2.77), and points (389.5).

“Our coaches really work us hard,” Erminio said. “They  push us to do our best.”

 UPJ is 24-10 overall. The Lady Cats had a 15-7 conference mark.

 “They’ve done a marvelous job,” Kendera said of Joanna and Justin Haupt. “They’re motivational. They have confidence in us. They’re uplifting and they believe in us.”

The Lady Cats will face another test in Gannon, the No. 4 West seed which upset West top-seed Clarion in the quarterfinals. The teams play at 5:30 p.m. today.

Gannon has won four straight matches and six of its past eight.

The Golden Knights beat East No. 2 seed UPJ 3-0 during the regular season at the Sports Center.

“We played them earlier in the season but I think we’ve grown since then,” Erminio said. “We’ve been working really hard to get to the playoffs. We’re going to give our all. We’re approaching it like it’s our last game. We’re going to play really hard and work together.”

Eastern Division top-seed Shippensburg will play West No. 2 California at 7:30 p.m. today.

The semifinal winners will meet at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday for the title.

“I’m so excited,” Kendera said. “As a team, our excitement level is through the roof. If we carry that into the weekend, we should play just as well, if not better than we did against Lock Haven.”