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Short-handed PSNK volleyball team stays upbeat

| Friday, Aug. 28, 2015, 12:09 a.m.
Penn State New Kensington's Cora Rejniak sets the ball during warm-ups at Penn State New Kensington on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015.
Erica Dietz | Trib Total Media
Penn State New Kensington's Cora Rejniak sets the ball during warm-ups at Penn State New Kensington on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015.
Penn State New Kensington's Shania Eckman spikes the ball during warm-ups at Penn State New Kensington on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015.
Erica Dietz | Trib Total Media
Penn State New Kensington's Shania Eckman spikes the ball during warm-ups at Penn State New Kensington on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015.

What the Penn State New Kensington women's volleyball team lacks in size and numbers, it makes up for in passion for the game.

“We talk about taking it one day at a time this year, and I think that will be the key to it,” PSNK coach Amy Kostek said. “With these seven girls, the cohesion with this team is pretty strong already.”

PSNK will play in the Penn State Beaver tournament Friday and Saturday to open the season.

In her first season last year, Kostek set the bar high as she coached the Lions to the Penn State University Athletic Conference playoffs. PSNK lost in the first round to eventual champion Penn State Fayette, 3-1. The Lions finished in eighth place in PSUAC with a 6-9 record.

Kostek, formerly Amy Sigmund, has plenty of experience putting together teams. She coached volleyball at all grade levels for seven years at Springdale.

She also knows there's a lot to be sorted out when it comes to her rotation and getting to know the strengths of her incoming freshman. Kostek is high on Deer Lakes graduate Cora Rejniak. Despite never playing at the college level, the 5-foot-6 Rejniak was a four-year starter for the Lancers and brings a wealth of experience. She is expected to start at outside hitter.

“Cora is a very talented player. We're extremely lucky to have her from Deer Lakes. They have a solid program there,” Kostek said. “People gravitate to her because of how positive she is and how good she plays volleyball, so they mimic her on the court.”

The soft-spoken Rejniak looks to lead by example on the court and to be more of a leader than she was in high school.

“Some of these girls haven't played volleyball for as long as I have, so I feel like I have to step up,” Rejniak said. “If you mess up, don't let that bring the team down because there's always the next play.”

Kostek will be looking at Apollo-Ridge grad Shania Eckman at outside hitter. She joined the program late last season and still managed to finish third on the team with 24 kills. Another player Kostek will lean on is freshman Bethany Weiblinger, another Apollo-Ridge grad. Weiblinger brings not only the experience Kostek is looking for, but she has the versatility to play every position on the floor.

“I really think it gives me an advantage, and I have the abilities to help them wherever they need me to,” Weiblinger said.

Kostek will return defensive specialist Katie Dugan. The 4-foot-11 Springdale product will reprise her role as the libero. Highlands graduate Aubrey Simpson will also be returning after a nagging wrist injury kept her on the sidelines last year.

“I was telling (Simpson) the other day she looks like an entirely different person,” Kostek said. “She's very aggressive, in your face and not afraid. I'm glad to see that her injury didn't scare her away.”

William Whalen is a freelance writer.

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