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Not Ready to Stop: Keystone’s Alyssa Weaver Finds the Confidence to Play Volleyball at the Next Level

KNOX, Pa. (EYT/D9) — It wasn’t long ago when Alyssa Weaver doubted she had what it took to play volleyball at the next level.

Even as she piled up 584 assists — 540 in the last two seasons — and helped the Keystone volleyball team win its first District 9 championship in 29 years, she wavered on giving the sport a go at the next level.

(Above, Alyssa Weaver, right, smiles as she holds the District 9 Class 2A championship trophy with teammate Leah Exley)

“It was always in the back of my mind, but I never knew if I could actually do it or not,” said Weaver, who turned in a stellar senior season as a setter for the Panthers.

She first realized there may be a future for her beyond high school when she attended a volleyball camp last offseason. Weaver was surrounded by other players who were looking to showcase their skills to the college scouts in attendance, and she was right in the middle of it all.

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.

Weaver played well and gained some confidence.

“I connected as a setter with the hitters and I was like, ‘Oh, wow, this is working really well,’” Weaver said. “So, throughout my senior season this year, it was kinda in the back of my mind. I worked extra hard, and after the season ended, I decided, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna miss this a lot.’ So I reached out to a few coaches.”

They were delighted that she did.

Weaver discovered there was a bigger market for her skill set than she could have ever dreamed.

Suddenly, Weaver had options.

“It was really awesome to know I could do that,” Weaver said. “To know I could play at a different level.”

Keystone coach Bryan Mong never doubted Weaver.

He began coaching her all the way back in the seventh grade and watched her grow as a player and as a person.

“She’s just a kid who doesn’t quit,” Mong said. “She always goes after it. She has a very aggressive mentality and plays to the whistle. Whenever she did her recruiting, she set her mind to playing college volleyball and it worked out for her.”

The difficult part turned out to be picking a school.

The moment Weaver stepped on the Waynesburg University campus, she knew she had found her home.

(Alyssa Weaver, front center, is flanked by her father, Jim, and mother, Lea. Back row, from left is Keystone athletic director Bill Irwin and Keystone volleyball coach Bryan Mong)

“I wanted a smaller school so I could connect more with my professors and just have a smaller community,” Weaver said. “When I toured it, it just felt like a place where I could really succeed. When I met with the team and the coach, they all had a great mindset and were really focused on positivity and mindfulness. I just thought that was a really cool focus.”

Weaver had the same dynamic at Keystone.

After losing to Redbank Valley in the district final at the end of her junior year, Weaver and her teammates set one goal for this season.

Win the title and avenge that loss.

It wasn’t always easy. COVID-19 quarantines wreaked havoc with the schedule, forcing a long layoff followed by matches almost every day for two weeks.

The Panthers weathered that storm and Weaver excelled, setting up potent hitters like Leah Exley, Natalie Bowser, Sydney Bell and Jozee Weaver (no relation).

Keystone won the title with a sweep of its nemesis Redbank Valley.

“It was the first time in 29 years and that really pushed us,” Weaver said. “I think that game we worked as a team the most we ever had during the season. It just really brought us together.”

So did the tumult of the last two seasons.

As a junior, Weaver and Keystone played in empty gyms because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, COVID again messed with their schedule, but it was different because they had the electricity of fans in the stands.

“This season was so fun, especially because last year was just a mess with COVID and not being able to have anyone at the games, having a dead gym,” Weaver said. “It was just so awesome getting to play in front of a crowd, and it definitely fired us up and pushed us a lot harder. Having our fans at the championship game, we walked into the gym (at A-C Valley) and we were like, ‘Oh, this feels good.’”

Weaver is hoping to play in front of large crowds right away at Waynesburg.

“It would be awesome to go and play right away,” Weaver said. “But I don’t know what will happen. At least I’m getting to be a part of a team again. It will definitely let me learn playing with people with experience and hopefully I can get with them and play right away.”

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.