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West Shamokin's focus breeds success

| Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2006

One game at a time -- that's how West Shamokin's volleyball team is approaching this season. So far, it's working.

The Lady Wolves are 4-0 in the regular season, with all the matches against section opponents.

The team's philosophy was implemented by first-year coach Justin Nolder. By focusing on the individual games within each match, the Lady Wolves are not letting their early success go to their heads.

"I just think it's a good philosophy," said Steffani Huff, a senior captain. "It's made us keep our focus on the present instead of the playoffs. It's going to help us reach that without us overlooking what we have to do to get there."

The Lady Wolves know what it takes to make the playoffs. While playing in Class AA, they have been a postseason staple over the past several seasons.

When a team that has been that successful drops down to Class A, there are some who might think winning will come naturally and easier competition tends to be a point in that argument.

If any of the Lady Wolves had thoughts along that line, they were erased when West Shamokin played Greensburg Central Catholic on Sept. 5.

West Shamokin rallied from being down 2-1 to win the match, 3-2. Games 2, 3 and 4 each went into overtime, with the Lady Centurions taking the first two.

Huff, a three-year setter for the Lady Wolves, had 30 assists in the come-from-behind victory, and Brianna Detwiler had 16 kills.

"That was big," Huff said. "That was very exciting and, I think, eye-opening because we had dropped down, and we knew it was going to be rough, but we didn't know much about the teams."

The Lady Wolves were familiar with their coach prior to the start of the season. West Shamokin's players have the opportunity to say they have been coached by someone who used to referee their games.

"We thought he was a very good and fair ref," Huff said. "We knew if he was reffing, it was going to be a fair game. We liked it when he was the ref."

As Nolder had seen the Lady Wolves play, he knew what they could and couldn't do well.

"Compared to past years, they've really stepped it up to the next level," Nolder said.

Passing has been something Nolder has focused on this year. As far as his team's improvement in that area, he said that it's "something we have accomplished."

Nolder added that, offensively, "passing is the strongest" attribute of the Lady Wolves.

With a showdown at returning section champion Elderton approaching Sept. 26, Nolder said his players still have a lot of work to do. However, the Lady Wolves are not concentrating on the Lady Bobcats just yet.

West Shamokin is focused on Springdale, which it visits tonight, and then the Lady Wolves host Riverview on Thursday.

"The key is we prepare for every game the same way," Nolder said. "We're preparing for the games (this week) the same way as Greensburg Central Catholic. There's no change mentally or physically."

Nolder added that taking the season one game at a time "slows the games down for us and makes us better able to think."

At the Upper St. Clair tournament last weekend, which didn't count toward the standings, West Shamokin placed ninth out of 16 teams and took third in its pool, which included Seton-La Salle. The Lady Wolves beat the Lady Rebels in pool play, and Nolder said that Seton-La Salle is ranked No. 7 in the state.

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