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Youthful Geibel netters continue to grow

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Geibel coach Rick Watkins (right) talks to several members of the Geibel volleyball team during practice on Monday. (Jason Black/Daily Courier)

Rick Watkins is entering his 21st season as coach of the Geibel volleyball team.

Watkins will be assisted by Ashley Staffieri and Jim Caccimelio.

Geibel opens the season in the Fayette County Coaches Assocation Tournament at Laurel Highlands on Sept. 1.

Top high school sports
Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

The 2012 volleyball campaign promises to be a season of growth for Geibel. But while the youthful Gators could endure some growing pains, that doesn't mean success can't be a part of the maturation process.

“We have 14 girls,” coach Rick Watkins said. “Three are seniors and one is a junior, so that means that 10 are very young. But they are responding to the training.”Watkins noted much of the team's preparation has been focused on the mental part of the game. The training has been intense.

“If it's not the hardest I've pushed a team, it's probably up there with the best of them,” the 21st-year coach said. “But not one of them has quit or even complained.”

The Gators lost five seniors from last year's playoff team, but there is some leadership returning. Seniors Emily Costantino (outside hitter), Peyton McIntyre (libero) and Toni Ardabell (middle hitter) have been a positive influence to many of the younger girls.

“Emily is probably the most vocal leader,” Watkins said. “The other two seniors have been terrific as well.”

Junior middle hitter Rachel Elias is a returning letterwinner as well.

The Gators' roster is dominated by sophomores, a good sign for future seasons.

Sophomore setter Haley Solan will be getting plenty of varsity action.

“She is going to be a good one,” Watkins said. “She has a good attitude and she picks things up very easily. If I tell her to do something, I don't have to tell her twice.”

Sophomores Kaylee Ermine (outside hitter) and Kylee Soberdash (middle hitter) also are expected to make an impact on the front row.

Despite the team's relative youth, expectations are still high.

“I think it is assumed every year that we want to make the playoffs,” Watkins said. “We'll just focus on the next game and then move on.”

Costantino said playing as a team will be key.

“We expect to all work together,” she said. “We all know we are in the process of growing and we want to show what we can do.”

The Gators have plenty of work to do in order to reach their goals for the season, but so far, Watkins likes the way his team is coming together.

“The kids have energy,” he said. “They want to be pushed and they want to be good.”

Jason Black is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-626-3534.

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