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Latrobe volleyball coach brings forceful attitude

| Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012, 9:01 p.m.
Latrobe girls volleyball player Lizz Ritenour at practice on Thursday, August 30, 2012. Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review

Jordan Zeunges learned at an early age never to back down when playing sports. Growing up playing on boys teams and becoming the first female to play for the Derry Area varsity baseball team a few years ago helped shape a mindset she sticks by today.

If you want something — even something as relatively trivial as a single point or block or pass in volleyball — you've got to go take it.

The Latrobe girls volleyball team's young new coach, Zeunges' philosophy has already tricked down to her players.

“You have to have an aggressive team if you want to succeed in volleyball,” Wildcats senior middle hitter April Krivoniak said. “She emphasizes that a lot with us.”

A standout player for Derry in softball and volleyball who was one of the more accomplished offensive players in the history of the Slippery Rock University softball program, Zeunges replaced Jenny Feiertag as Latrobe's volleyball coach over the offseason.

It doesn't take long in speaking with Zeunges to understand the vision she has for how she wants her team to play.

“Aggressive!” Zeunges nearly screamed. “In everything, aggressive. I was taught that a long time ago.

“I think I was 12 and I was pitching in baseball, and my coach comes out and tells me, ‘He's in on your plate — hit him in the chin.' I said, ‘What are you talking about?' But the point was you can't be afraid to be forceful. ‘You're on this mound — and you're the best player on this field.'

“I tell girls, ‘You're the best one out on this court. There's no one blocking you' or ‘There's no one you can't block.' You can't wait for anything to get done; you've got to go get it first.”

Latrobe has made the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs each of the past six seasons, but last year was the first time since 2006 the Wildcats did not win at least a share of the Section 1-AAA title or advance to the WPIAL quarterfinals.

Latrobe returns some talented players from last season's team and also, in effect, adds two who are arguably its most talented players in Krivoniak and senior libero Lizz Ritenour.

Ritenour missed last season due to a knee injury and Krivoniak did not play because of a foot injury.

“It's so nice to have them back,” Zeunges said. “Those two I'm pretty sure are going to be our leaders. April can do so much. She's our go-to girl, but we'll also use her on the back row because she's a great hitter but she's also a great passer. She will attack from any position on the court.”

Krivoniak was named second-team all-WPIAL as a sophomore two years ago. She committed to play at Robert Morris University after she was offered a full scholarship.

Krivoniak and Ritenour highlight a senior-heavy group that also includes outside hitter Amy Kaszycki. Maggie Kisick, Ashley Thiel and Natalie Kovatch are other seniors who will contribute. Junior Lauren Solomon will serve as setter.

Among the other players stepping into prominent roles for the Wildcats this season are freshman middle hitter Noelle Carota, sophomore outside hitter Katie Hendrickson and junior Alexa Venneri, who will play a variety of positions.

“We have a lot of talent available to create,” Krivoniak said. “We should have a good team that can make a section title run and make it to playoffs.”

Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.

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