Multisport Athletes Make Gateway Volleyball Shine

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Sunday April 4, 2021 | 11:01 a.m.


Gateway boys’ volleyball coach Phil Randolph has plenty of new faces on his team this season who bring athleticism from other sports.

That’s a positive considering the Gators only brought back a handful of players after losing a big senior class whose 2020 season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The challenge for Randolph is to take that athletic ability and turn it into a volleyball team. They are early in the construction process, but the potential is promising.

“It’s a blessing to have kids who have athletic discipline and know what it takes to be successful,” said Randolph, who is in his third season with the Gators. “What makes it difficult is taking that and turning it into volleyball. Gym volleyball and real volleyball are two different games, so we just have to not let them run into that wall of frustration and let them know that it usually takes time to develop. But these guys are picking it up at a very fast pace.

Returning veterans are outside hitters Chris Lewis and Will Kromka and setter Ryan Bozicevic.

Randolph said Lewis swings as hard as anyone he’s seen from the outside and has college potential. Kromka injured his wrist in the basketball playoffs and will miss the start of the season but is expected to return. Randolph praised Bozicevic’s work ethic which improved his jump serve as well as his passing.

Then there are the new faces.

Two-time WPIAL swimming champion and PIAA medalist Drew Holmes will line up in the middle. JT Taylor, a football rookie from Notre Dame, Ohio, provides leadership as the former captain of the Gators football team. Taylor is an average hitter. Sam DiPalma comes from swimming on the team and is an opposite hitter. Aiden Colberg was a wrestler and swimmer at Gateway and is a defensive specialist. Gabriel Sha, swimmer and footballer, is an outside hitter.

All of them came out for the team for the first time and impressed with their ability to adapt to volleyball.

“I think there’s reason to be optimistic because all of these guys know how to work hard,” Randolph said. “We have some who are going to play college football and another who is going to be a Division 1 swimmer. If things go as they should, I think we can be a nice surprise.

DiPalma, Taylor, Anthony Brown, Ryan Szekely and Ryan Tandoc are the Gators seniors.

Gateway is in Section 2-AA with perennial powerhouses Derry and Deer Lakes as well as Mars and Plum. Summit Academy was also meant to be part of the chapter, but has pulled out for 2021.

“I feel like we’re going there a bit blind considering we didn’t have a season last year, but we know Derry’s kind of schedule,” Randolph said. “Even when I was playing volleyball at Hempfield in the early 2000s, Derry was the team that was the measuring stick. I think winning mentality is important to have in your back pocket. They are at the top of our list because they are a polished program.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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