Thursday, August 31, 2017

2017 Lycoming College volleyball preview: Youth movement

Junior Emily Hepner and the Warriors open the 2017 season on Saturday against Penn College.
Photo courtesy of Lycoming Sports Information
WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – Having made the MAC Commonwealth Tournament in four of the last five years, the Lycoming College volleyball team will move into an unfamiliar role as it starts the season as a bit of an unproven entity. Only three starters return from a senior-laden squad in 2016 when the team finished 15-20 and earned a berth in the conference tournament, but a young corps of 11 freshmen and sophomores are set to make an impact.

Back for his 18th year as head coach, Tim McMahon believes that the talent is there to improve upon not just the 15 wins from a season ago, but also improve on the team’s initial preseason poll selection of sixth. However, in order to do that, the team, loaded with seven sophomores and four freshmen, will need to consistently grow throughout the season.

Coach’s Take: “As long as we stay healthy, I see this year’s team growing very quickly. The sophomores are comfortable with their leadership role. They all want to play so they all have that hunger and I see that benefitting us in practice and in games. All the freshmen played in competitive club programs and have gotten better in practice.”

Front Row
The Breakdown: With the team’s top four hitters from 2016 lost to graduation, the front row in 2016 will have a young flair, as there won’t be a single senior taking swings this season after three seniors combined for nearly 50 percent of the team’s swings last year.

That will leave plenty of room for new faces, and McMahon said there are plenty of capable athletes that can make a quick impacts on the front row.

Sophomore Alysa McDevitt (Warminster, Pa./Archbishop Wood) returns with the most experience along the front row and she will continue to play as a middle hitter. The 5-11 hitter started throughout her rookie year, averaging 1.54 kills and 0.66 blocks per set. Freshman Elle Jednorski (Forest Hill, Md./Fallston) appears poised to win the other middle hitting position and has impressed early with her blocking and hitting.

On the right side, the team returns two players that will vie for time in junior Katie Hausknecht (Emmaus, Pa./Emmaus) and junior Taylor Johnsonbaugh (Altoona, Pa./Altoona). Hausknecht, at 6-2, gives the team another tall body on the front row, and she has worked to improve her blocking after averaging 0.37 per set as a rookie. She also added 0.63 kills per set. Johnsonbaugh has averaged 0.82 kills and 0.59 digs per set in her two-year career.

Freshman Emily Konopka (Wrightstown, N.J./Northern Burlington Regional) has begun to step into a role on the right side as well, but can also see time in the middle or on the outside.

On the outside, sophomore Lilly Singleton (Hanover, Pa./Delone Catholic) appears poised to step into a larger role after averaging 1.61 kills, 1.04 digs and 0.20 blocks in 49 sets as a freshmen. In the other starting outside hitter role, freshman Kiannah Titus (Clay, N.Y./Baldwinsville) impressed the coaching staff early in preseason, while freshman Molly Ball (Sayre, Pa./Sayre Area) will also see time immediately.

Who Returns: Katie Hausknecht, So., Emmaus, Pa./Emmaus; Taylor Johnsonbaugh, Jr., Altoona, Pa./Bishop Guilfoyle; Alysa McDevitt, So., Warminster, Pa./Archbishop Wood; Lilly Singleton, So., Hanover, Pa./Delone Catholic.

Newcomers: Molly Ball, Fr., Sayre, Pa./Sayre Area; Elle Jednorski, Fr., Forest Hill, Md./Fallston; Emily Konopka, Fr., Wrightstown, N.J./Northern Burlington Regional; Kiannah Titus, Fr., Clay, N.Y./Baldwinsville.

Coach’s Take: “As far as opposites, Katie is probably going to fill Kristine (Jahn ’17)’s role. Katie has the opportunity to play and that brings a tall presence to the right side on the power block. Alysa is still going to stay in the No. 2 middle position. As far as the outside, Lilly had a great spring season, taking over Lauren Fink ’17’s position. We brought in Kiannah Titus. She is going to start as our left side-outside hitter. She has good hops and is a smart hitter and good power. We have the opportunity to run Kiannah in any of the three front row positions. We will probably continue to exploit that on offense. When she is in the middle, she can run middle, stacks and slides. In the middle, Elle Jednorski is going to step into that position right off the bat filling in for Tayler (Whitman) ’17. From what I saw over the weekend in our scrimmage, she can be a dominant middle. She puts up a nice block, she cuts the ball well and has good power. She also has a strong serve, so I can see her serving before the libero steps in the game. We do have the opportunity with Molly Ball to put her on the outside or the middle. We used her in transition over the weekend. I see Emily Konopka playing either on the right side, or she can play outside. She puts up a solid block, she’s quick, athletic and can get to the ball.”

The Breakdown: With two setters that each saw considerable playing time in 2016, McMahon said he foresees needing both again this year and expects them to both compete and perform consistently in order to stay on the court. Luckily, both are very talented setters who can both put the team in position to win. With both playing well, the Warriors will be able to run both 6-1 and 6-2 lineups, giving the team some added depth and versatility.

Senior captain Catherine Burger (Royersford, Pa./Spring-Ford) is a two-time all-conference performer that gives the team a tall setter at 5-11, that has the ability to block if needed. She averaged 6.54 assists and 1.61 digs per set as a junior, while crossing 2,500 assists in her career.

Sophomore Emily Myers (Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y./Sachem North) provides a tough defensive mentality as well as being a good setter. She worked her way into 95 sets as a freshman, averaging 4.29 assists and 1.75 digs per set.

Who Returns: Catherine Burger, Sr., Royersford, Pa./Spring-Ford; Emily Morris, So., Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y./Sachem North.

Coach’s Take: “I think both setters are aware that they need to compete. We may run a 6-1 or we may run a 6-2, depending on our opponents and what we need for balance. Cat has shown her presence in the way that she talks to the team as captain. She seems to be more motivational this year, which I am glad to see. Emily has also stepped up in conversing with the team in a positive manner.”

Back Row
The Breakdown: Junior Emily Hepner (Leesport, Pa./Schuylkill Valley) has already scooped up more than 1,000 digs in her two years in the program, making her one of the team’s most consistent defensive presences. She earned the libero job as a freshmen and improved as a sophomore, averaging 4.64 digs per set to finish third in the conference.

Sophomore Darci Warriner (Wellsboro, Pa./Wellsboro) will also push for time in the back row after averaging 1.24 digs in 29 sets as a freshman and sophomore Lindsay Beck (Quakertown, Pa./Quakertown Community) has also worked to find a spot in the rotation after averaging 1.46 digs in 41 sets.

Sophomore Anslee Walk (Tyrone, Pa./Tyrone Area) and senior Taryn Wojnar (Wilkes-Barre, Pa./Crestwood) will also work to see playing time, as the five back row players give the team its most depth at the position in recent years.

Who Returns: Lindsay Beck, So., Quakertown, Pa./Quakertown Community; Emily Hepner, Jr., Leesport, Pa./Schuylkill Valley; Darci Warriner, So., Wellsboro, Pa./Wellsboro Area; Anslee Walk, So., Tyrone, Pa./Tyrone Area; Taryn Wojnar, Sr., Wilkes-Barre, Pa./Crestwood

Coach’s Take: “Emily Hepner is going to step up, but Darci and Lindsay are going to push her. Both of them played well in our scrimmages. Kiannah is going to help out a lot. She can play the whole way around and she has a great jump serve.

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