SCHA volleyball coach Heather Hoehn and 2011 captains Michelle Cybularz (left) and Gianna Pownall. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

There is a total of just three juniors and seniors on the Springside Chestnut Hill Academy volleyball team for 2011, but fortunately many of the younger netters began playing the sport before they reached the upper school level.

The Lions’ co-captains this fall are the two juniors on the varsity roster, outside hitter Michelle Cybularz and setter Gianna Pownall. The lone senior is 5’11” middle hitter Elana Roadcloud, and sophomore Courtney Hamilton plays the same position.

The primary rotation also includes the Moriarty sisters, Jenna (a sophomore outside) and Julia (a freshman libero and outside hitter). Another freshman, right side hitter Brigit McDermott, started the pre-season practices as a junior varsity player, but has moved up to become a varsity regular. Sophomores Elizabeth McClafferty (libero), and Kathryn Saltzman (right side/setter) round out the roster.

“We have a significant number of young players, both freshmen and girls who have gone from being JV players last year to varsity starters this season,” noted second-year skipper Heather Hoehn, a former head coach for Villanova University. “There’s some experience there, though. Five of our starters played CYO volleyball in grade school.”

Like most teams that lack six-footers along the front row, The Lions will have to keep their wits about them on defense.

“We have to be quick with our blocks on the outside, because that’s where most of the attacks come in high school volleyball,” Hoehn said. “In the back, we have to make sure we’re getting in good position to dig the ball out.”

Turning to her own attack, the coach reported “Elana’s been hitting well, and Michelle is always a force on the outside. Brigit [McDermott] started out on JV, but she has come along so quickly that it became obvious that she should be on varsity.”

To assist the hitters is the steady Pownall, whose experience as a basketball point guard helps with her overall court awareness.

SCHA went 2-1 in its first three outings, registering 3-0 victories over Harriton High School and Westtown, and losing a five-gamer to Little Flower. The season schedule is similar to that of 2010, featuring a mixture of opponents from half-a-dozen different leagues.

“There’s been a lot of growth just in these first three or four weeks,” Hoehn said. “The girls are absorbing knowledge quickly, and putting it into practice.”



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