Hempfield sophomore hitters to lead the way this season
They play opposite positions on the court. But Morgan DeFloria and Maddie Holmberg are very much alike when it comes to their volleyball proficiency and their ability to help lead Hempfield to new heights.
Two of the top sophomores in WPIAL Class AAA, DeFloria and Holmberg are opposite hitters who are beginning their second seasons as starters for the Spartans.
“We don't normally play next to each other (on the court), but we play kind of the same game,” DeFloria said. “Just because I'd say we are smart with the ball. We don't try to smack it and it ends up out of bounds all the time. We're usually pretty good at keeping the ball in play.”
The 5-foot-11 Holmberg and the 6-foot DeFloria join opposite-side hitter Leah Knizner and setter Lexi Irwin as sophomores who are expected to be significant contributors for Hempfield this season.
Coach Lindsay Turchetta said all four of her sophomores are standouts and will serve as leaders for Hempfield.
“We have another young team this year,” Turchetta said, “but everything's been going well so far, and we're excited for the rest of the year.”
Holmberg and DeFloria played together for the Hempfield middle school and varsity teams and also for the Keystone Volleyball Club.
“We've never been on a team without each other,” Holmberg said. “So, therefore, we have been coached the same way, and we've had the same experiences and played through the same situations, so we play pretty similarly.”
Barring injury, Holmberg and DeFloria will end up as four-year starters, and the other two Hempfield sophomores will be three-year starters. The talent is there now; the experience garnered for the future will make the Spartans even better.
“They all should only continue to keep getting better and better, which obviously is a good sign,” Turchetta said. “I assume Maddie and Morgan will be Division I (college) material after four years. I know that's both of their goals.
“They've played together since sixth grade, they're best friends and they play very similar styles.”
But these Spartans aren't all youth. Plenty of experience is back from last season's team, notably three senior starters: setter Carolyn Sossong, middle hitter Lea Scozio and libero Alexis Ritson.
Junior middle hitter Jess Beal is a newcomer who will play a significant role.
“The starters have come together well, and they've all learned to play their own role and play it very well,” Turchetta said.
Hempfield went 2-8 in Section 1-AAA last season and is looking for its first playoff berth since 2008. The Spartans lost three players to graduation who had been named first- or second-team all-section last season.
“We've already surpassed the level we were at last year, I feel,” Holmberg said.
“The goal was to be better than last year, and I think we already are. So, hopefully, we can make it to playoffs or win the section.”
Turchetta, who is in her fourth season as the varsity coach, repeatedly stressed two points during preseason practice: Communication and consistency. “That's our big thing,” Turchetta said. “If we can communicate and be consistent, we like our team.
“They're young, but they've been playing together for a while now, and they're really starting to come together and mesh. They can really be unstoppable if they choose to be.”
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.