Marley O’Brien grinned when asked about the success Pittston Area volleyball has had in 2015.
It’s a fair question. The Patriots, who have struggled in season’s past, finished with a 9-8 record and right in the middle of the Wyoming Valley Conference.
“I think some of the girls on the team were probably even surprised,” O’Brien said.
Now, it’s on to the second season.
Pittston enters the postseason as the No. 3 seed in District 2 Class 3A and will face off with No. 2 seed Wyoming Valley West at Delaware Valley Monday night. The top-seeded Warriors host Hazleton Area in the other semifinal.
In 2A, Dunmore and Holy Redeemer both enter the bracket undefeated. The Lady Bucks will be the top seed, yet, have a major hurdle in front of them in the form of Redeemer, ranked No. 6 in the state. The Royals, which have won 158 straight Wyoming Valley Conference contests, have also never sustained a defeat against a District 2 squad since the school’s formation.
At the Dunmore site, the Lady Bucks play No. 8 seed Berwick. The opener between Crestwood and Wyoming Area should be interesting. The two squads opened the season against each other in September with the Comets coming away with a four-set win.
At the Redeemer site, the Royals start the playoffs against No. 7 Greater Nanticoke Area. The other quarterfinal pits No. 3 seed Abington Heights and No. 6 North Pocono.
The semifinals will be Tuesday at the highest seed remaining with the championship set for Thursday at Wilkes.
In Class A, MMI Prep will be the No. 3 seed and faces off with Elk Lake Monday.
Of course, Pittston understands the challenge that lies ahead.
First, it starts off with Valley West and sophomore standout Gracie Giza, who like O’Brien, has more than 200 kills on the year.
And if a title is going to be won, it goes through multiple-time reigning champ DelVal, whose only loss in 2015 is a three-set sweep by Redeemer.
“The whole team, we’ve worked so hard over the summer,” O’Brien said. “Myself, I worked a lot on hitting and really focused on passing. As a team, everyone put in the time to get better. You can see it. This is our first winning season in a long time, so I think we may have shocked some people. But we knew we were capable of it.”
Don’t expect the Patriots to go lightly.
Pittston has had success against Valley West this season, winning in straight sets, and battled in a loss at DelVal.
They will scrap. They will battle.
And they hope to keep their district dreams alive.
Here is a look at the district bracket:
2014 champ: Delaware Valley
Upset special: Pittston Area over Wyoming Valley West
Bold prediction: Giza and O’Brien each have more than 18 kills in a semifinal that goes at least four sets.
Championship prediction: Delaware Valley over Pittston Area
Pittston Area quick fact: While O’Brien is one of three in the WVC with 200-plus kills (Giza and Tunkhannock’s Amanda Hardy are the others), classmate Anna McDermott leads the conference with 249 digs.
Wyoming Valley West quick fact: The Spartans, winners of two straight, have a strong presence in the back row with Jimena Calvo Saenz. The first-year libero has more than 140 digs and has shown the ability to attack from the back line.
Hazleton Area quick fact: The Cougars reached the championship last season, but graduated a large number from that team. Hazleton may be one year away as juniors Kendra Pfeil and Cindy Gutierrez led the team in kills and assists, respectively.
2014 champ: Holy Redeemer
Upset special: Crestwood/Wyoming Area winner over Dunmore in semifinals
Bold prediction: Crestwood and Wyoming Area play the best match of the entire tournament in the quarterfinals with the winner needing five sets.
Championship prediction: Holy Redeemer over Crestwood/Wyoming Area winner
Holy Redeemer quick fact: No offense is more potent than the Royals. In addition to Division I recruit Lauren Slavoski, Redeemer features four other attackers: Amanda Curcio, Kassie Schinski, Caroline Banas and Brynn Kukosky. More interesting is all five girls are 5-foot-9 or taller.
Crestwood quick fact: The Comets have the best libero in the league with senior Julie Murphy. Murphy was the difference in Crestwood’s win over Wyoming Area in the season opener, digging 20-plus balls to the front row in that match.
Wyoming Area quick fact: The Warriors won 12 straight matches at one point in the season, and have a senior-laden squad that lost to Redeemer in the 2014 district quarterfinal. Setter Rachael Solano is third in the WVC with 343 assists, and classmate Jess Sorick is fourth in the league with 187 kills.
Nanticoke Area quick fact: Nanticoke Area might be the youngest team in the Class 2A field with only two seniors on the roster. One of those seniors is Abbey Zaykoski, who leads the team with 158 kills. Sophomore Kasey Radginski had a strong campaign with 126 kills.
Berwick quick fact: The Bulldogs might be peaking at the right time, winning seven of its last eight matches. Its only setback was a five-set loss to Nanticoke Area. Berwick has two major attackers: junior Maddie Traugh and senior Sydney Reigel, who combined for 298 kills.
2014 champ: Blue Ridge
Championship prediction: Blue Ridge over Elk Lake
MMI Prep quick fact: The Preppers, the smallest team in the WVC, won five matches in league play, and have only two seniors on the roster. Dana Carrato, a 5-10 junior, does it all for MMI. She leads the team in kills (147), blocks (15), digs (103) and aces (35).