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Latrobe volleyball hopes to bounce back after disappointing season

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Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Latrobe sophomore Noelle Carota plays against West Shamokin on Saturday, August 24, 2013, in Derry Township.
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By Ed Phillipps
Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

With its transition year out of the way, the Latrobe girls volleyball team is aiming for a return to form.

Last season, the Wildcats finished a disappointing 4-8 under first-year head coach Jordan Zuenges, who took over a team that lost five starters from the previous season. The Wildcats snapped a six-year streak of playoff appearances.

“It wasn't the best season, but I learned a lot,” Zuenges said. “The girls learned a lot about me and my style of coaching.”

Getting accustomed to a team on a personal level and implementing a system is not an easy task to accomplish in a short amount of time, Zuenges noted.

“You have a picture of what you see the team doing,” she said. “You have a picture of what you want to do drill-wise. You already have that picture in your mind. But then you have to spend as much time getting to know your team as you do coaching.

“The first year is a lot harder than people think. It's really an adjustment.”

A full year of offseason activities will help the team's cause, Zuenges said. To prepare for the coming season, the Wildcats have taken on numerous physical challenges and passed them all. The grueling sessions included circuit conditioning, plyometrics and high intensity training.

“A lot of it is physically demanding,” Zuenges said.

“They don't complain about it. They always rise to the occasion. We never have to repeat drills due to lack of hustle.”

Since they are not blessed with the prototypical 6-foot player, the Wildcats plan to compete by being more athletic and accurate than their opponents.

“We are able to get really good placement with the ball,” team captain Alexa Venneri said. “When we see open spots on the court we are able to get there.”

Venneri, a senior outside hitter, is part of a young starting lineup. She is joined by middle hitter Noelle Carota (sophomore), hitter Aleisha Stas (sophomore), outside hitter Kennady Grejtak (junior) and setter Lauren Solomon (senior).

Last season, the Wildcats had a tendency to become flustered during games which had a snowball effect that translated into poor play and eventually losses.

“That's one thing we really improved on this year is becoming a team more and having each other's back,” Venneri said.

“When we're down, we want to pick ourselves back up and have the momentum to come back and try to win.

“We realized we need to come together and do what we need on the court. It makes us want to (stay positive) so we can have a good season.”

Ed Phillipps is a freelance writer.

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