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Warwick girls carry high hopes into 2011 season
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
The Warwick girls volleyball team had a nice streak going up until last year.
For the first five years that Jen Wanner took over as the Lady Warriors’ head coach, they had qualified for the playoffs.
Unfortunately, that run ended in 2010 when the Warwick girls finished fourth in the Section One standings with a 4-6 record.
One year later, that is a source of motivation as they begin preparations for the new season.
"I talked to (the players) about it and said, ‘Last year was the first year we did not make the playoffs and that is a matter of reputation, that’s a matter of pride,’" Wanner said. "Everybody knows we’re in a tough Section, everybody knows that Lancaster volleyball is some of the best in the State, easily. But I said to them, ‘You just have to understand that we get no second chances, that you need to get it back on track, and we need to show everybody that Warwick volleyball is a force to be reckoned with and we can’t accept losing these matches. We have too much talent. We have girls who are too athletic. We have too much to waste to not make the playoffs."
With a number of key players returning — including starters Emily Buckwalter, Jenna Stoltzfus, Greta Weidemoyer and Bethany Zimmerman — there is a sense of optimism in the Lady Warriors’ camp.
Plus, Wanner has been very pleased with her squad’s work ethic in the early going.
"We have quite a few returning players that played together last year. It was a little bit of a rebuilding year (in 2010)," Wanner said. "We started a lot of sophomores and juniors. This year, we’re starting a lot of juniors and seniors, so they have a season under their belt and I think we should be solid this year if we work together and keep working hard."
Certainly, they will have some shoes to fill with the graduation losses of outside hitter Tara Greiner, right-side hitter Avry Martin and outside hitter Lauren Sproles, who was a First-Team All-Star and Warwick’s best offensive player in 2010, according to Wanner.
Juniors Buckwalter and Weidemoyer, though, both received Second-Team accolades and will be counted on this fall at outside hitter and middle hitter, respectively.
"Emily will be stepping up to kinda take Lauren’s spot," Wanner said, "and Greta just continues to improve in the middle."
Zimmerman, a senior, is also returning in the middle to join forces with Weidemoyer.
"Bethany and Greta are between 5-10 and 6-feet, so that’s good," Wanner said. "We’ve never been a super tall team, but I feel like we have girls who can jump. We have girls who can get height and play the ball above the tape. Timing has a lot to do with it too. Just having a good jump and good timing can make up for a couple of lost inches in height."
At this point, getting the ball to Warwick’s hitters will largely fall on the shoulders of junior setter Abby Wenger. Stoltzfus, a senior, could also help out there. Last year, Stoltzfus shared the setter’s role with Hayley Burnheimer, but she is making the transition to outside hitter for the Lady Warriors.
Wenger set for the Warwick JV team in her freshman and sophomore seasons, and she also played some minutes at the libero position for the varsity squad last year.
"(Abby) has really stepped into her setting role on varsity," Wanner said. "She’s learning fast and she’s doing a really good job running the offense. I’m really excited to see her continue to develop at the higher level, the quicker level of varsity. Jenna can always step in and set if need be. But at this point, to have Abby set and to have Jenna hit would be the best for our team. Every year kinda presents a different combination of girls who will make the team the best it can be."
Taylor McVey and Leigh Boggs are in the mix battling for minutes at the right-side spot.
"There’s a couple of girls fighting for different spots right now," Wanner said. "I haven’t completely determined who my starters are going to be, but I’m definitely looking to step it up from last year and be playoff contenders again and get the ball rolling for a winning season."
With a newly-implemented District power rating system for girls volleyball this year, Wanner knows they will have to get the ball rolling right from the get-go. In previous years, teams that didn’t advance to the L-L League finals played round-robin matches to determine their District seeding. But in 2011, regular-season matches will carry more weight with varying points awarded for wins over Triple-A, Double-A and Single-A teams.
"It is more pressure because it means there’s less room for error," Wanner said. "… It means there’s more of a sense of urgency, I think, for us to put our system together earlier in the season. Even though we have Abby as a new setter and we have some girls at different spots, we can’t afford to drop any matches because the beginning of the season counts just as much as the end of the season does for District seeding purposes."
Warwick open its season on Tuesday, Sept. 6 hosting Penn Manor at 7 p.m. More LADY WARRIORS, page B-6