New-look Lady Saints ready to shine
Published 9:38 pm Wednesday, August 19, 2015
The Nansemond-Suffolk Academy girls’ volleyball team is set to write an exciting sequel to the 2014 season in which it won its second straight state championship.
But the 2015 graduation has drastically changed the look of the team.
“It’s going to look completely different than last year, but I think that the results are not going to be completely different,” Lady Saints coach Robyn Ross said. “So I have no question in my mind that this team of 11 can do what that stacked team of 12 did last year.”
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That stacked team of 12 that went 21-9 featured five seniors, including ace setter Brooks Gillerlain and two middle blockers that were at least six feet tall — Caylin Harris and Lizzy Fowler.
The tallest players on this year’s team are 5 feet, 7 inches to 5 feet, 8 inches.
The team’s more diminutive makeup means it will have to operate differently than before, with lots of people playing in lots of different positions.
“It is going to change the way we run our offense and how we run our defense,” Ross said. Because her players are smaller, “They can’t just swing away at any ball they want to,” she said. “They have to be in the right position.”
“So, basically, what we lack in size, we have to make up for in brains and speed,” she added. “The brain piece is what is going to make or break us this year.”
The Lady Saints are also setting a new standard during Ross’ tenure as coach for how young they can be.
“The most freshmen I’ve ever had on a roster is two, and this year, I have five that are freshmen and under, so it’ll be an interesting year for how that pans out,” she said.
The team features two eighth-graders, three freshmen, five juniors and one senior.
“The youth are on a pretty steep learning curve, and the veterans are really learning how to help them along,” Ross said. “So far it’s been good.”
Nansemond-Suffolk will benefit from the impressive intelligence and ability displayed by juniors Livi Bono, Logan Harrell, Lindsay Knierbein and Nicole Wright.
Bono, Harrell and Knierbein contributed to last year’s state title run. Throughout this past year, while playing with Ross’ Nansemond Volleyball Club, they continued to develop, along with Wright, who is taking over setting duties this year for the Lady Saints.
“Those four juniors that played on my club team this past year, I think that’s what’s going to be the glue this year,” Ross said.
The diminutive club team had an underdog aura but was very successful.
“They look little, but they still win,” Ross said. “I like being the underdog and surprising everybody.”
And Nansemond-Suffolk will look to do that this year. It begins its 2015 season on Aug. 25 with a public school opponent, hosting Western Branch High School.