Ken Wunderley has this week's Boys Volleyball Notebook. Read his story below.
(Photo: Matt Knab has helped to set up plenty of victories for the Beaver County Christian boys volleyball team)
Beaver County Christian has the smallest enrollment of the 201 boys volleyball teams competing in the PIAA.
But that hasn't kept the Eagles from fielding one of the top teams in the state in Class 2A.
Beaver County Christian entered the WPIAL Class 2A tournament, which began this week, as the top seed and heavy favorite to claim a second consecutive title. The Eagles are also ranked No. 3 in the PVCA state rankings.
The PIAA calculates the enrollment for each school by combining students in ninth, 10th and 11th grade. Only five schools in the PIAA have a boys enrollment total of fewer than 100 students. Beaver County Christian has the fewest boys with only 26. Lititz Christian School, a District 3 school, ranks second with 32.
The only other PIAA schools with fewer than 100 boys are Farrell (81), Parkway West (89) and Susquehanna Community (94).
Beaver County Christian has 99 fewer boys than Bishop Canevin (125), which has the WPIAL's second-smallest enrollment.
"Family has been the key to our success," Beaver County Christian coach Christen Adels said. "We've been very fortunate to have families with some very talented kids. Two kids on this year's team had brothers who graduated in 2014. Last year's team also had a younger brother of another 2014 grad."
Adels was referring to current seniors Daniel Townsend and Matt Knab, and 2016 grad Quinn McCracken, who led Beaver County Christian to its first WPIAL title last year. Their brothers — Will Townsend, Jon Knab and Gib McCracken — led the Eagles to WPIAL fourth-place finishes in 2013 and 2014.
"I have a photo of the three sets of brothers which was taken after we won the WPIAL title," Adels said. "The younger brothers have the gold medals, but their brothers got us to the WPIAL semifinals twice. It's special to have a photo of the six together."
Beaver County Christian actually finished fourth in the WPIAL three years in a row (2013-15).
"The third year we finished fourth was my sophomore year," Townsend said. "We lost in the semifinals and the consolation final all three years, which left us one win short of a PIAA playoff berth."
Adels would like to add a few other photos to her scrapbook at the WPIAL finals, which will be held May 25 at Baldwin High School. But like all coaches, Adels doesn't want to look ahead.
"We may be the favorite, but we can't take anything for granted," Adels said. "We're not a tall team. We have to continue to block better. We still have a long way to go."
Townsend is a 6-0 outside hitter, while Knab is a 6-1 setter. Both were voted first-team all-WPIAL Class 2A and the PVCA all-state team last season.
"My kids just love to play volleyball and they've been playing together since they were very young," Adels said. "Daniel's father even built two sand courts for the kids to play on. So they can play volleyball all summer."
Beaver County Christian entered the playoffs with a 10-0 record in Section 1 and a 13-2 mark overall. The Eagles' only losses were to Northeastern, the PIAA Class 2A champion the past four years, and Seneca Valley, the No. 4 seed in the WPIAL Class 3A tournament.
The Eagles received a bye in the first round and faced Seton-LaSalle Thursday in the quarterfinals.
"Another reason for our success is that, since we have such a small school, most of my kids also play for the basketball and soccer teams. Most were also in the class play," Adels said. "Playing together so much improves teamwork and cooperation.
"One thing I tell all my players is that I will not tolerate egos. Everyone who plays for me is expected to play for the team and our team goals."
Townsend and Knab are among 10 seniors on this year's squad.
"We have a total boys enrollment of 45, if you include our seniors," Adels said. "We have 21 boys on our roster: 10 seniors, 4 juniors, 1 sophomore, and 6 freshmen."
Townsend also plays soccer and was in the class play 'The Music Man'.
"We are blessed to have such talented athletes," Townsend said. "Most are also playing either soccer or basketball, some both. And we were also in 'The Music Man' together. It's been a lot of fun."
Townsend and his teammates are hoping to have a lot more fun in the next three weeks.