FRONT ROYAL – It’s a brand new coach and practically a brand new team for Warren County volleyball this year.
Lesley Detweiler has taken over as coach after Dorinda Robinson stepped down in the offseason. Only four players are back from last year’s team, which advanced to the Class 3 state tournament for the second straight season.
“I feel like we’ve put a lot of hard work in,” Detweiler said. “We’re a young team, but there’s so much potential. So as a team we’re starting to bond and seeing that potential. I think the girls are buying into my philosophy and I know that’s different from what they’re used to, but we’re starting to see some success and I think that’s helping.”
The Wildcats lost hitters Kaley Foulks and Lauren Fox and setter Morgan Coons among others to graduation. However, senior hitter Brianna Hogan returns this season. One of only two seniors on this year’s team, Hogan has moved from middle hitter to outside hitter.
“It’s a new adjustment,” Hogan said of this year’s squad. “We have a bunch of new girls. We’ve got to get the chemistry going because it’s all new to us.”
Hogan had 114 kills and 42 blocks last season for the Wildcats. Detweiler said Hogan will play a key role on the team this season.
“She is definitely going to be the anchor in our offense to start with,” Detweiler said. “She’s become much more consistent on the outside. She definitely has the ability to play all the way around. She also understands that she has a lot of young girls around her and has stepped up to provide that leadership, along with Shannon (Vernick). The two seniors, they both have done a great job in kind of pulling the younger kids up, making them feel welcome, making them feel comfortable so they’re not as timid coming into a big program like that.”
The other two returners from last year’s squad are sophomore Sydney Nalls and junior Aniston Roth. Detweiler said that Nalls has shown improvement and will also be an important piece of the team’s offense. Hogan and Nalls will look to lead the offense, which was led last year by Foulks (404 kills last season) and Fox (150 kills last season).
Detweiler said that freshman Jamie Kelly and junior Alexis Pitsenbarger will be the setters this season, replacing Coons who had 718 assists last year.
Kelly, Atori Lane and Faryn Gorham are the three freshmen on this year’s squad and Detweiler said they have adjusted well so far to the varsity level.
Hogan said it feels a little different without last year’s group of seniors around and she is trying to be a good leader for the younger players this year.
“I grew up with (last year’s seniors),” Hogan said. “They were always around me. Now I’ve got to be the role model since they were my role models when I was younger.”
Detweiler said she’s enjoying coaching again. Detweiler is a former Skyline head volleyball coach and last coached the Hawks in 2013.
“I really enjoy it,” Detweiler said. “I get so much out of it. I love the game itself. But just being able to instill some things not just about volleyball but about life. And being a part of this program and continuing the success, I’m really looking forward to it.”
The Wildcats were Class 3 state runners-up two years ago and lost in the Class 3 state semifinals last season. Warren County starts its season Tuesday at Sherando.
Hogan said she believes this team can be good even though they are really young.
“If everyone can put their mind to it, and if we’re coachable and listen to what coach says, we can definitely repeat the last couple years,” Hogan said. “I think we’ll have a good season.”