Young Lady Saints adapt to survive

Published 10:19 pm Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s girls’ volleyball team has proven it has the ability to change on the fly and get positive results, even with a young roster.

The Lady Saints continued a good start to its conference schedule on Tuesday with a 25-13, 25-15, 25-11 win against host Norfolk Collegiate School.

One of NSA’s foremost stars, senior middle blocker Caylin Harris, has had to set out with an illness since mid-September. Coach Robyn Ross said Harris is “out indefinitely until she gets cleared by doctors.”

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This meant one of Nansemond-Suffolk’s sophomores has had to step up.

“Livi (Bono) had to move into the middle position, which nobody loves,” Ross said. “It’s the hardest place on the court to play, and so especially if you’ve never done it before, it’s scary, because it’s a lot of responsibility.”

Bono co-led the team with 10 kills on Tuesday.

“Livi has stepped into Caylin’s role and has done great, not just offensively, but serving and defensively too,” Ross said.

Harris was the kill leader for the team, but senior middle blocker Lizzy Fowler has also elevated her game in Harris’ absence.

“There was no question in her mind of what she was going to do, so she’s been in double-digit kills every match, and it’s been really fun to watch her offense come alive this year,” Ross said of Fowler.

Fowler also had 10 kills on Tuesday.

Sophomore outside hitter Lindsay Knierbein has grown into a key contributor, as well.

“She has moved into being one of the main people on serve-receive and in the back row,” Ross said.

Knierbein had 17 digs on Tuesday to lead the defense.

She has also been working on her arm swing in the effort to be able to play all the way around on the court. She was a key offensive player who helped NSA get its first conference win last week by recording 10 kills.

“She’s a feisty kid and a really hard worker, and so those two together can usually make for a really good hitter, if you can teach them how to hit,” Ross said.

Nansemond-Suffolk participated in a tournament at Flint Hill School on Saturday and went 1-2.

Ross said she likes for her team to participate in that tourney because of the strong competition, typically including teams in the top five of Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association’s Division I level.

While NSA left with a tournament championship last year, it still left with some good things this year. The Lady Saints ended a busy Saturday with a 2-0 victory over Liberty Christian Academy, currently ranked No. 5 in the state at the VISAA Div. I level.

“Not having Caylin is more evident the better the teams we play,” Ross said of the 1-2 weekend. “So, having somebody who has only played in the middle for a couple weeks, Livi did great at that tournament, too.”

Nansemond-Suffolk is 10-7 this year, a bit different from its 15-2 record of last year, but Ross is not ruffled.

“I always know and feel the same whether we’re winning or we’re losing. It’s a matter of us sticking with what our game plan is, and focusing only on what we’re doing on our side,” Ross said.

She said she has kept adjusting practices to deal with specific things based on her observations from matches.

Additionally, “The seniors are doing a really good job of trying to keep the nerves down and keep it calm when the younger ones start to get anxious,” Ross said.

“I don’t care that it’s 10-7,” she added. Commenting on the growth of her young players, she said, “What they’re doing is fun to watch.”

NSA hosts Bishop Sullivan Catholic High School tonight.