Changes to program don’t slow Hampton volleyball
Thursday, October 3, 2019 | 7:56 PM
A coaching change can give a program a breath of fresh air, but new Hampton volleyball coach Mike Hansen wants his seniors to know that they’re the ones who deserve all the accolades.
“We have a great group of seniors providing tremendous leadership,” he said. “I give myself no credit for it. They’re putting in the hard work and doing what it takes to win these games. They’re showing other players how to act on the court and at practice. Setting that example is important.”
There’s been plenty of winning at Hampton this year, as the team might be in better position to make a deep playoff run than the past couple of years despite losing outstanding talent Anastasia Russ to Pitt. The team secured a 3-1 victory last week over Mars to take sole possession of second place in the Section 4-AAA.
“We’ve really tried to push moving the ball around and getting it to as many players as we can rather than just have a singular offense player,” said senior captain Claire Braun.
“Obviously it was going to be like that last year … but I think that it’s really worked in our favor. We’ve all been stepping up into the plate, putting the ball away when we need to. We’ve all played as a team more and not been reliant on a singular person.”
Libero Maggie Laffin gave a strong performance in the Mars contest. However, the team will now have its depth tested with senior Gillian Mulcahy out indefinitely with a foot injury.
The seniors have helped foster a culture of camaraderie that helps its chemistry on the court, leading it to a 7-2 record in the section.
“We have some great players no doubt,” Hansen said. “But why we’re having success this year is our team chemistry. I think everyone on the team genuinely likes and supports each other. That goes a long way on the volleyball court.”
The Talbots are bolstered by strong play of their underclassmen as well. One standout is Addie Syglowski, who has played all over the court.
“She’s coming in and playing all around and doing a great job,” Hansen said. “I have to give her credit for that. Her serve is probably the best on the team. She’s killing it playing both offense and defense.”
Likewise, the team has benefitted from switching Braun from middle to outside hitter, giving its senior leader more opportunity.
“She’s one of our better hitters,” Hansen said. “Outside hitters get more hits because you need a pretty good pass to set the ball in the middle. It’s easy to set the ball outside. I wanted her to get more sets and swings.”
Braun was hesitant at first to make the switch after settling in at a position where she was comfortable but knew it was in the best interest of the team.
“I was really confident playing middle,” she said. “I knew he was doing it for a good reason, so I tried to stay open-minded about it. The first few games went a little tough because it’s completely different. The timing is different. Just through practice and games, I love the switch. I think it’s beneficial for the team and as a player, I’m getting a lot more swings and had the opportunity to put the ball away more.”
Hampton’s two losses in the section are to reigning WPIAL champion Knoch, including a 3-0 setback Oct. 1.
“We played how we were supposed to play as a team,” Braun said. “I don’t know if the score reflected that, but if you were in the gym, you know we made them fight for it. It showed us that we could compete with a team like that. They’re a state-level team. There’s nothing we can do about that. But it’s driving us to know we can compete against these teams and not let up and constantly play like that.”
More High School Sports• New Yough football coach Chris Chunko tackling unorthodox offseason
• Pitt commit Nahki Johnson announces offer from national champion LSU
• Highlands Summer Rams suspend activities due to player testing positive for covid-19
• Gateway’s Derrick Davis ready to narrow college football offers to Top 7
• A few more doors open for Black athletic directors as WPIAL tries to promote diversity