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Young Lady Titans come back with year of experience to go with talent

| Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012, 8:59 p.m.

Last year, the Shaler girl's varsity volleyball team found itself in a rare state: rebuilding. With key players graduating in each of the previous two seasons, it was up to a handful of young and up-and-coming players to uphold the tradition.

The team went through some growing pains as many teams do when several freshmen and sophomores start, but the positive result is all of those players are back with a year of enhanced skill and live game experience.

Lady Titans coach Kris Ruppert said she is very happy so far with where her still young squad is, and in addition to being smart, skilled players, she said the communication may be key.

“They are all friends and work very well together,” Ruppert said.

“This is probably the best communication I have ever seen on a team.”

Ruppert installed an extensive summer conditioning program, and the kids bought in. They showed up and followed the regimen, which made them much more skilled and explosive, according to Ruppert.

“We are still really young and there will be some errors, but we have cut those down,” Ruppert said. “We cut down on that and it was huge in the first game. Our confidence has really grown.”

At the core of the team are sophomores Annie Bozzo and Liz Kline.

“They both bring really high volleyball/sports IQs,” Ruppert said. “They have the ability to bounce back, and they complement each other.

“They communicate well and want to play.”

Fellow sophomore starters Natalie Pilewski, a setter; Nicole Bradford, an outside hitter; and right-side hitter Hannah Bradford are at the forefront of a young nucleus of players.

The team is young at the heart but is not without some upper-class influence. Senior libero Sydney Golden is solid, according to Ruppert, and brings the most experience to the team.

New players to the team include Laurel Gavin, a junior right-side hitter; Liz Rhodes, a middle blocker; and Lexi Schwartz, a defensive specialist.

“The goal is to win the section, and I think we will be in the hunt,” Ruppert said. “We want to (get to) and perform well in the playoffs. We have five sophomores and they will grow together over the next three years.”

Jerry Clark is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-779-6979 or jeclark@tribweb.com.

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