CLARKS SUMMIT — One hundred percent effort, 100 percent of the time.
That’s what Abington Heights second-year head coach Kendra Hooper expects from the Abington Heights girls volleyball team this season.
“I learned our girls need to work on their hustle,” Hooper said. “Anytime we were getting beat, it seemed we were just being outhustled on the court. We definitely have the skill and a great attitude, we just need to increase the drive to want to win. They need to practice like they want to play in a game.”
The group finished last year with a 15-3 record in Lackawanna League competition and was defeated by North Pocono in straight sets in the first round of the District 2 Class 2A playoffs.
Hooper believes the team can have even more success this season if each player picks up their intensity and continues to work on their individual skills.
“We’ve been working really hard since the beginning of the season,” she said. “I’m looking to make districts again and maybe go a little bit further this year. Overall, we’re just looking to improve as a team. Instead of making all the girls decent at every position, we’re working to be more position specific. We’re going to try to really focus on each player’s specific position and try to help them excel.”
The team returns three starters and several other players who had key roles last year.
Senior Olivia Baker is back as the starting right-side hitter, senior Alessia Brunori will move from middle hitter to outside hitter and Emily Crowley returns as a setter.
Senior Maria Pacyna is expected to serve as the team’s starting defensive specialist. Junior Ashley DeRiso should also see time at the position. Senior Brooke Reiner will start at libero, juniors Paris Koehler and April Sokalsky will serve as outside hitters, and junior Emma Baker will serve as a middle hitter.
“They are huge role models for our junior varsity and first-year players,” Hooper said of the upperclassmen. “Those girls look up to them constantly. If they start doing something, the junior varsity girls start picking it up. When the junior varsity team is practicing alongside the varsity, it just seems to raise their level of play.”
The team must replace setter Marissa Lewis, middle hitter Mariah Tulaney and outside hitters Cassie Toth and Grace Hambrose, who all graduated.
Despite those voids in the lineup, Hooper was impressed by the team’s play against nine-time defending District 2 Class 2A champion Holy Redeemer in a scrimmage.
“It was the best we’ve ever played,” Hooper said. “We really gave them a run for their money this year. Our biggest struggle was receiving serves at the start, but once we got it down we stayed with them for the whole scrimmage.”
Hooper expects Blue Ridge and Dunmore to provide the toughest competition within Lackawanna League play.
“They’re their teams that push us to work really hard and the ones we’re always gunning for.”
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.