Four wins in Section 2-3A might not seem like a lot to those that do not follow WPIAL boys volleyball closely, but for Pine-Richland, it signaled a gigantic leap in the right direction.

Coming off a year in which the Rams went winless, they narrowly missed the playoffs, finishing fifth in section play.

There’s hope in the program and with all but one player returning, the feeling is that it will be a stepping stone for big things to come.

"I think they realize how close they are and how much harder they need to work,” Rams coach Tyler Trimbath said. "That’s going to help them going into next season. They want it more than ever now that they just barely didn’t get in.”

One of the highlights of the season was beating Seneca Valley, 3-2, on April 5. It ended a long losing streak against the Raiders.

"The last time we had beat Seneca Valley before this year was in 2007,” Trimbath said. "Some of our guys weren’t even born the last time Pine-Richland beat Seneca Valley.”

The Rams split with the Raiders and North Hills and swept Fox Chapel.

Narrow five-set losses against North Hills and Butler kept the Rams from reaching the playoffs.

They play in a section that dominated Class 3A this year. The final four teams in the bracket — WPIAL champ Shaler, WPIAL runner-up North Allegheny, Butler and Seneca Valley — are all from Section 2.

"That’s what’s tough about our section,” Trimbath said. "Most of the teams in our section can beat the other teams, but only four are allowed to go to playoffs.”

The Rams beat three teams in nonsection games that made the playoffs. They topped WPIAL Class 2A runner-up Armstrong and Upper St. Clair, and their biggest nonsection victory came against Section 1-3A champ Canon-McMillan, which was undefeated at the time.

The Rams took the first two sets before the Big Macs took the next two, 25-23. Pine-Richland won the fifth set 15-13.

"Going into that game, we changed up our rotation,” Trimbath said. "We moved people to some positions they hadn’t played before, but they all bought in. They wanted to win, and we had nothing to lose. There wasn’t a lot of pressure, because it wasn’t a section game and (Canon-McMillan) was undefeated, so if we lost to them, it was fine. It was a fight and our guys had a good time doing it, so that was nice.”

The Rams return All-Section hitter Doolin Stober as well as leading setter Matteo Rotelli. Blake Thompson is the lone graduate.

They’ll be one of most experienced teams in the WPIAL next year, and they are banking on that translating into a special 2025.

"Next year is our time,” Trimbath said. "Looking at the all-section teams, the three top teams — Shaler, North Allegheny and Seneca Valley — almost all their entire starting lineups were seniors. They’re going to have new players stepping into those roles, and we’ll have some guys that are in their fourth year playing varsity. I think that’ll be helpful for us.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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