The start of the school year marks the return of a popular Tribune-Democrat feature.

Spotlight Athletes will begin on Tuesday and continue throughout the fall, winter and spring seasons.

The weekly feature is sponsored by Greater Johnstown Career & Technology Center and USSCO Federal Credit Union.

This week’s honorees include a pair of multi-sport athletes, one from Central Cambria, senior Brian Walwro, along with the defending District 6-AA singles tennis champion, sophomore Alyssa Kush of Westmont Hilltop.

Find out about these athletes and what they and their coaches have to say about their endeavors.

Nominations can be submitted to cisenberg@tribdem.com.

Volleying to the forefront: I realize that no one needs my validation in order to succeed, but after having seen the Northern Cambria volleyball team in action at their tournament on Saturday, they certainly look as though they are already in mid- to late-season form, poised and raring to repeat as PIAA Class A champions.

The Colts lost Nikki Bearer and Kaitlyn Kudlawiec to graduation, but have a strong base of outstanding athletes who now are seasoned veterans when it comes to handling the big moments in a volleyball match and putting the poor points quickly in the rearview mirror.

Seniors Autumn Donatelli, Brooke Lieb, Jenna Lutch, Rayna Buza and Zoe Novella along with juniors Maggie Hogan and Camryn Dumm all return from the championship squad. Added to the mix are juniors Emma Kollar and Kayla Boring, along with sophomores Jessica Krug, Rachel Lieb and Ella Dobransky.

“We have some strong pieces, we just have to develop some depth,” Northern Cambria coach Mike Hogan said. “You don’t ever want to look past anyone, but you have to keep your eye on what’s coming and keep moving forward.”

The Colts won their tournament for the first time on Saturday.

“The kids really wanted to win this tournament and when they want something, that makes a really positive and beneficial thing,” Coach Hogan said. “I told them, that this is a great start to the season, but it’s just a great start, not the pinnacle. There was some really good competition here today.”

Quick starts: Somerset, Ligonier Valley and Rockwood have gotten off to strong starts in golf in their respective conferences.

 “We’ve done well so far,” said Golden Eagles golf coach John McGinnis, who is also the golf pro at Somerset Country Club. 

“I’m proud of them. They are a good bunch of guys who play well together.”

Logan Greenawalt has been the medalist several times thus far, but the Golden Eagles (5-0) have also gotten strong showings from Andrew Platt, Braden Lohr, Chase Stoy and John Augustine.

In the Laurel Highlands, Penn Cambria and Bishop McCort have also started off with perfect records.

“We know that there are plenty of tough matches ahead of us,” McGinnis said. “When the kids go back to school, it’s difficult for them to balance finding time to practice and with their studies. We just have to continue to strike the ball well and play good team golf.”

Bishop McCort and Somerset play at Penn Cambria on Thursday.

Ligonier Valley is unbeaten in the Heritage while Rockwood holds the top spot in the WestPAC.

• In tennis, the Somerset tennis team opened with 5-0 mark for the first time in school history, including a 3-2 victory over perennial power Westmont Hilltop on Wednesday, but dropped a 4-1 decision to Central Cambria on Thursday.

The Red Devils are the lone unbeaten squad with a 5-0 mark. The Golden Eagles at 5-1, Bedford at 4-1 and Bishop Guilfoyle at 3-1 follow behind Central Cambria in the Laurel Highlands standings.

• A number of cross country teams got their seasons underway on Saturday at the 46th annual Big Valley Invitational in Reedsville.

The girls from Forest Hills and Westmont Hilltop finished second and third, respectively, behind State College in the team race. 

The Hilltoppers’ junior Bridget Barbato was the highest girls finisher, fourth behind three State College runners. Junior teammate Elle Dorian was sixth and Bedford freshman Savannah Nesbitt was 10th. Senior Lacey Greathouse was the top Rangers runner.

On the boys side, Westmont Hilltop senior Nick Fetzer was the highest finisher, third overall. Bedford junior Van May was 12th.

Cory Isenberg is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. She can be reached at (814) 532-5080.​ Follow her on Twitter @CoryIsenbergTD.

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