by Tom Utescher
With the departure of the Class of 2013, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s volleyball team lost a pair of two-time co-captains in outside hitter Michelle Cybularz and setter Gianna Pownall, but fourth-year head coach Heather Hoehn feels the Blue Devils have returning talent that will make the team competitive this fall.
“We have a nice, well-rounded team,” she stated. “We lost some strong seniors from last year, but the underclassmen who are now seniors have stepped up to lead the team.”
The three seniors on the varsity roster are the captains for the squad this fall. Jenna Moriarty, a four-year starter who plays the libero position, is praised by Coach Hoehn as being “a phenomenal digger with great court sense. She’s one of the best defensive players in our league.”
Turning to middle hitter Courtney Hamilton, another veteran starter, the coach noted “Courtney is a force in the middle and she’s developed nicely over her four years. She’s doing a great job for us terminating the ball.”
The third senior, Kathryn Saltzman, has shifted to setter this season due to the departure of Pownall.
“We used her mostly as a hitter last year, but when she was younger she was a setter, so she has experience,” Hoehn explained.
Junior Emily Chicchi will be stepping into the outside hitting role vacated by Cybularz, and her classmate Bridget McDermott, who has played many positions since becoming a varsity regular as a freshman, will now find full-time employment as a right-side hitter.
Hoehn noted that junior Kyra Jackson has improved in her blocking and hitting, and she will be Hamilton’s understudy in the middle of the front row.
Gianna Pownall’s younger sister Marissa, now a sophomore, is being developed as a setter and also a right-side, and freshman setter Nicole Woo, a setter and defensive player, will see time in both JV and varsity matches. Hoehn said that Woo is a newcomer to the sport, but that she picked up the fundamentals quickly while attending some camps and clinics over the summer.
Taking an overview of her team’s assets, the coach said “Our defense is outstanding, and our terminations in terms of making smart shots are solid. We need to work on blocking and on our overall timing, and on staying confident.”
Last season, the Blue Devils finished fourth in the Inter-Ac League, where defending champ Agnes Irwin and runner-up Notre Dame should once again be formidable rivals.
In its league opener last Wednesday, SCH got a game off of the Irwin Owls, but lost the match, 3-1. That moved them to a 3-2 record on the season, with 3-0 wins over Engineering & Science, George School, and Westtown, and a 3-0 loss to Gwynedd Mercy, a team accustomed to the rigors of Catholic Academies volleyball.