Pittsburgh female spotlight athlete: Nikki Oakes
Claim to fame: Nikki Oakes, the Highlanders' No. 1 setter, has been a key component for Baldwin in its unbeaten run in Section 5-AAA. Oakes' biggest contribution came in a 3-2 victory over section foe Moon on Sept. 21. In the match, she was credited with seven kills, 12 digs, one block and 53 assists.
"She has good hands and she knows who to set and when to set them," said Brandi Sroka, in her second year as Baldwin's coach. "She has a variety of sets and is consistent. Beyond the serving line, I tell her where to serve and she always puts it there."
Her performance against Moon: "We basically knew that it was going to be one of the toughest games in our section. We scouted them at tournaments and knew they would be good. We wanted to come out and give it our all. When we were down, 2-0, we said we had to go back to basics and the little things. We just wanted to work as hard as we could and get the spirit and morale on our side."
College choice: "I'm looking at the University of Pitt-Johnstown. That's my No. 1 pick to go there and play right now. I've talked to Pitt-Bradford, Pitt-Greensburg, Westminster and Thiel."
College major in mind: "Pre-med. I love the medical field and just being able to help people and find out what's wrong and make their life better is what I want to do."
Prematch rituals: "Before every game, we get together and say a team prayer. We talk about everything we're going to do. We try to keep our team spirit high and give everything we can."
Playing volleyball on sand vs. the gym: "I love both. I go over to my friend's house and play on sand all the time. Sand actually helps you on the court because it's a lot more intense. It requires more stamina and helps you with your vertical (jump)."
Growth as a player since freshman year: "I've gotten a lot smarter with court smarts. I've learned to see the court differently. I love to watch volleyball and watch other teams play and see what they are doing wrong and bring it to the team and see how we can fix it."
Difference in team since Sroka became the coach: "She brings a lot of intensity when it comes to conditioning. She makes sure that we're the fit of the fittest. We go back to basics, and we fix the little things. We do the drills until they are right even if they take all practice. That's helped us out."