Ringgold head volleyball coach Christina DeMarco-Breeden does not have a numbers problem.
The exact opposite, really.
The Rams return three starters from last season’s team that went 4-8 in Section 2-AAA – arguably the toughest in the WPIAL. Competing against powerhouse programs like Upper St. Clair, Canon-McMillan and Peters Township, Ringgold held its own but missed the playoffs.
Times, however, are changing in Monongahela.
DeMarco-Breeden, a 2004 graduate of Ringgold who went on to play volleyball at Temple, took over as head coach this spring after one year as an assistant coach.
While the majority of the Rams’ roster graduated, a flourishing middle school program translated to 14 freshmen on this season’s varsity roster. Returning are senior middle blocker Chloe Seiler, an all-section pick as a junior, senior outside hitter Lydia Rimsek and senior libero Alex Massari.
Other key contributors returning are junior defensive specialist Evencia Robledo, junior middle blocker Loran Musser, senior outside hitter Cassie Lewis and senior right hitter Devon Payton.
While the varsity program struggled in a tough section, the middle school program lost only four matches.
DeMarco-Breeden believes the best is yet to come for a program she credits for her development, which includes a promising career as a Judicial Law Clerk at the Court of Common Pleas of Fayette County.
“I’m really excited for what the future holds for this program,” DeMarco-Breeden said. “(Chloe) is outstanding, (Lydia) is 5-7, but has the heart of a 6-2 girl and we have a ton of young talent.”
Ringgold’s offense will run through freshman setter Jenna Albert – one of many underclassmen who will be asked to take on a leadership role as the Rams attempt to reach the WPIAL playoffs.
“We have a very good freshman setter,” DeMarco-Breeden said. “(Albert) could get a scholarship in a few years and has so much raw potential that I can only imagine what she can accomplish these next four years. She will be great and can be unstoppable.”
DeMarco-Breeden’s career began at Ringgold, but her volleyball game flourished at Temple. The Rams won the section during her high school career and made the playoffs all four years. She went on to start for the Owls then earned her law degree at Pitt.
When a spot opened as an assistant coach at Ringgold, she jumped at the opportunity. The rest is only the beginning for a storied program with postseason aspirations.
“I like to consider myself an old school coach,” DeMarco-Breeden said. “This is areally nice group that loves the game and wants to learn. It’s funny that my playing career has come full circle with me coaching at Ringgold again.”
Peters Township is seen as one of the favorites to win the WPIAL title, and DeMarco-Breeden is impressed with Upper St. Clair after its preseason scrimmage.
The Rams are likely to be an afterthought in Section 2-AAA. While Canon-McMillan lost a strong senior class, but the Big Macs return four starters.
DeMarco-Breeden knows that C-M, Peters Township and Upper St. Clair will be popular picks to make the playoffs, but Ringgold is embracing its underdog role.
“Most people will underestimate us,” DeMarco-Breeden said. “That’s fine with me. Teams will be surprised. We have grit and this team plays with a lot of heart.”