Penn College Women Prep for Volleyball Opener
Even though its personnel changes each year by 50 percent or more, the Pennsylvania College of Technology women's volleyball team consistently is among the best in the Penn State University Athletic Conference.
Under coach Bambi Hawkins, who is entering her ninth season, the Lady Wildcats took top honors in 2004 and have placed second during each of the past three seasons.
"There are a lot of young ladies who come here to get a good education, but they also need a means of letting loose once in awhile and volleyball is a healthy way to do that to take out aggression when you've had a bad day or a really tough week," Hawkins said.
"I think these young ladies greatly appreciate that opportunity, and so they work extra hard at playing hard and jelling as a team. Yes, their academics come first. But they also still have to play as a team; they are still responsible to each other as a team. They seem to adopt that. No matter what team I've got, they seem to work toward that end goal. No matter what team I've got, they have that goal in mind; they want to be in those playoffs," the coach continued.
This year, Hawkins is working with a 10-player roster. Three of her players return from last year's team that finished 18-8 overall and another played for her two years ago. Penn College opens its season at 7 p.m. Thursday hosting Penn State Harrisburg at Bardo Gym on West Third Street.
Back from last season are outside hitter Courtney Barton (junior/Liberty) and middle hitters Alyssa Covas (junior/Pottsville) and Karlee Shubert (sophomore/Hanover). Outside hitter Jennifer DeLosa (sophomore/Bellefonte) is back from a 2006 team that went 20-3.
The four returnees, along with outside hitter Kristin Bernard (freshman/Hastings) and setter Lyndsey Smith (freshman/Mechanicsburg) will start.
Also on the squad are Nicole Sheesley (freshman/Lewisburg), libero Sasha Deimler (freshman/Middletown), outside-middle hitter Suzahnna McGee (freshman/Bushkill) and middle-outside hitter Kate Todorich (freshman/Mountain Top).
"Smith has great hands as a setter, so I look forward to watching her connect, especially with our middles because we're going to get some power out of Shubert and Covas," Hawkins said.
"Barton is always solid, but we've added some other solid players with DeLosa and Bernard," the coach said.
"They are such a quiet team and in volleyball communication is so key. In a (recent) scrimmage they started getting a little more comfortable, talking to each other a little more. But, ultimately, they are still quiet. Inherently, a lot of them are quiet to start with, so it's going to take even longer than usual to get them to mesh.
"I think they recognize each other's strengths. They've just got to work with each other to realize those strengths," Hawkins said.
"I can't make any predictions (on how the season will go) until I see them start working that defense a lot more.
"Last year we had a team that never let anything touch the floor, and they were 5-foot-5 average. This year we have a taller team and need to learn to get low and pick up the ball. That's going to be our struggle this year, but we're going to work on overcoming that real quickly."
Despite the challenges that are ahead, Hawkins is emphatic about one thing.
"We want to go to that national (United States Collegiate Athletic Association) tournament. When I'm recruiting, I say "come play with us because here's what we want to do,' " the coach added.
Of course, first the Wildcats must capture the PSUAC title.
"I'm looking forward to when this team does connect; when we get that pass and can utilize the setting abilities of Smith and she connects with our hitters. We have some hitters that have some real potential with power and they're going to be putting the ball down on the other side when we make that connection," Hawkins said.
(Complete rosters and season schedules are available on the college's Athletics Web site .)