Elderton set for another title run
You can't teach height, but taller doesn't necessarily equal better.
Elderton's girls volleyball team is a prime example of that, and the Lady Bobcats are poised for another run at the section title with many of their short, but experienced, players returning.
But, even though Elderton coach Dan Spencer has his “major players” back, he knows making the playoffs is not a sure bet.
Elderton narrowly edged Leechburg and Greensburg Central Catholic for the section crown last year, and now, with West Shamokin dropping down from Class AA, the competition should be more fierce.
But, if any team has the players who are up to the challenge, it might be Elderton, which lost just two seniors. Spencer said that almost all of his juniors were two-year letter winners, and that his junior class included outside hitter Leah McCoy, right side hitter Teresa Potts and setter Brandy McCourt.
Spencer admitted that Elderton's biggest weakness was a lack of height, saying, “We haven't had a tremendous growth spurt out of any” of the experienced players.
However, its hard to duplicate the Lady Bobcats' experience.
“They know what it takes to finish on top,” Spencer said. “You really have to beat them. They're competitive kids. They might not be tall, but they're short, scrappy and have an intensity to win.”
That intensity is going to be challenged a lot, especially by West Shamokin, which has seven seniors returning from a team that played in a Class AA section last year, with teams like Freeport, Ford City and Kittanning. “We have a very close-knit team,” said coach Justin Nolder, who is in his first year at West Shamokin.
Nolder spent the last five years as an assistant at Elderton, and he knows the section well.
Nolder said West Shamokin had “fairly nice size compared to the other teams in our section.”
However, Nolder doesn't think it's an advantage, adding, “size doesn't always result in winning. Look at Elderton. They're small and have been small for the past three years and are always competitive.”
Nolder believes his team's advantage is its closeness, which stems from seniors like Brianna Detwiler and Stephanie Huff.
Leechburg, which battled Elderton for the section title last year, is in a “rebuilding phase,” according to coach Ellen Toy. Leechburg lost seven seniors, but starters Jamie Bologna and Karlee Fisher are back for one more season.
Freeport has one starter back from its 18-0 section championship from last year. However, four-year starter Ashley Stover will be aided by junior Samantha Campbell, a 6-foot outside hitter.
Freeport coach Tom Phillips said he expected Campbell to “move on to the next level.”
Though the Lady Yellowjackets have Campbell's height in the middle, they lack experience, and Phillips said his team's success depended on how quickly his team matured, especially in a Class AA section that he and Kittanning coach Lori Gamble called one of the toughest in the state.
Ford City and Kittanning each have sights set on the playoffs. The Lady Wildcats lost just two starters, and with players like Rebecca Carlson, Linday Miller and Jill Emberg returning, Gamble said making the playoffs was achievable for Kittanning.
The Lady Sabers have four starters back from a team that missed the playoffs by one game last season.
“If we learned anything from last year, we should be OK,” Ford City coach Becky Ballie said.
Junior Tara Powers and senior Becky Lendyak should provide Ford City with power at the net.