Alana Pergine isn’t one to get ahead of herself.
A four-year starter with the Pope John Paul II volleyball team, Pergine was turning down college coaches the first time she walked off the court her freshman year.
“That was overwhelming,” she said with a laugh. “My mom would have to tell them, ‘Sorry, she’s just a freshman. Try again in a couple of years.’”
As the arc of her scholastic career continued, Pergine only continued to elevate her game.
A three-time All-State, All-Pioneer Athletic Conference and All-Area selection with three trips to the state championship playoffs, Pergine was named The Mercury’s 2016 All-Area Girls Volleyball Player of the Year.
“I never would have thought volleyball would help me to achieve all of these honors,” she said. “It’s been motivating for me every single season. I’ve played with some really talented girls who have helped me to become the player that I am now.”
Pergine becomes the third selection from Pope John Paul II in the fourth season of the All-Area volleyball team. Before her came fellow PJP teammates Geena Bevenour (2013) and Nicole Dorman (2014) followed by Perkiomen Valley’s Cayla Veverka (2015).
Each season began the same way for Pergine and the Golden Panthers.
During the preseason, members of the team would stand in front of a blank whiteboard and come up with a list of goals — both short- and long-term — which they’d set out to accomplish for the season. Goals started out simple, then as the team progressed, so did their outlook for the season.
“We would start out with things like ‘be supportive’ and ‘work hard together,’” she said. “Then, it would become ‘win PAC’s, win districts and eventually win states.’ That was always our motivation. Our coach would always keep the board around and remind us of it.
“If we ever got tired or down, our coach would remind us of the board and our goals.”
The board was also a landing spot for the team’s practices, games and even an occasional motivational quote.
Holding the marker in her hand, Pergine developed into her role as a senior leader and helped lay the blueprint for the Golden Panthers this season.
“She had a very big hand in putting those goals up on the board,” said Pope John Paul II head coach Ryan Sell. “We had three or four seniors that really stepped up in the leadership category and Alana was definitely one of them.”
Pergine helped set the tone as Pope John Paul II ran through the Pioneer Athletic Conference at 14-0 and finished 20-3 overall. The Golden Panthers finished runner-up in District One with a loss to Gwynedd Mercy, then fell in the opening round of the PIAA-AAA playoffs to eventual champion Allentown Central Catholic in a thrilling five-set match.
Through the span of her four-year career, that was the first time Pergine or any member of the team had experienced consecutive losses.
“It was a disappointing finish, of course,” said Pergine, “but we still got all the way there. That says a lot about our team and the season we had.”
Predominantly a middle hitter, Pergine was a force above the net for the Golden Panthers. Mixing in her height, an impressive vertical leap and a killer spike, Pergine became the main point of attack for a PJP team that held a 64-10 game advantage and won 19 matches by straight sets.
All of her talent and playmaking ability aside, Pergine claims that her best quality is simply being there.
“I’m a very supportive teammate,” she said. “I know how it feels to get down on myself, and I know that when I’m down, sometimes all I need is a little support from someone else.
“I’ll never let someone get down on themselves without reminding them of what they bring to the team. I think that’s one of the most important things about being a teammate.”
For her, that team-first mentality — ‘Sisters on the court,’ as the Golden Panthers term it — wasn’t developed overnight. It came with four years of varsity experience, arriving on the scene as a wide-eyed freshman and eventually helping her to develop into the team’s most seasoned veteran.
“When you get to watch a kid go from a shy 14-year-old freshman to maybe one of the most dominating attackers at her position in the state it’s a good feeling,” said Sell. “Alana’s best quality is that she really truly cared about our team. She knew what it felt like to be 14 (years old) playing in a very competitive and intense environment.”
That ability to adapt and develop lifted both Pergine and the Pope John Paul II volleyball program over the course of the past four seasons. With Pergine part of the cornerstone of PJP’s success, the Golden Panthers will have their inaugural freshman volleyball team starting up next season, school President Jason Bozzone confirmed this past week.
“I think about my freshman year a lot and how far I’ve come as a player since then,” said Pergine.
Still unsure of where she’ll spend the next four years, Pergine finds herself again standing in front of a completely blank whiteboard. It’s once again up to her to decide how she’ll fill in the blanks once the time comes.