Libero Avery Koontz gets her digs in for Hampton girls volleyball

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Saturday, October 1, 2022 | 11:01 AM


As libero for Hampton’s No. 2-ranked girls volleyball team, Avery Koontz is not allowed to jump above the height of the net or attack the ball.

Instead, she does her best work much closer to the ground.

Koontz, a 5-foot-3 junior, is a defensive specialist and energetic fireplug for the Talbots, who are looking to return to the WPIAL and PIAA Class 3A championship games after last season’s near-misses.

“You can always count on her doing her job,” first-year Talbots coach Dainen Holler said. “She’s a really solid player, and she’s really fun to watch.”

In Hampton’s 3-0 victory over visiting Gateway in Section 1-3A play on Sept. 22 (25-17, 25-4, 25-7), Koontz had a team-best 14 digs, often diving to the court to get her hands under a would-be spike or delivering pinpoint passes to Hampton’s imposing frontline of hitters.

Koontz also led the Talbots with 19 digs in victories over Armstrong and Franklin Regional and 15 digs in a 3-0 win at Plum.

“I think my season is going pretty good,” she said. “I’ve gotten a lot more consistent. Just playing the game really helps you improve.

“I have to encourage people. I think that’s the biggest role of the libero. As far as playing, the biggest thing is just getting the ball up and forward. That’s my biggest thing.”

Koontz started playing volleyball in middle school — “My friends were doing it at the time,” she said — and was immediately attracted to the libero position. The libero is a back-row defensive specialist who can come in for a back-row player without it being counted as one of the team’s allotted substitutions. The libero is also easy to spot because she wears a different color jersey than the rest of the team.

“I just liked the fact that you wore the other-colored jersey, and I just went from there,” she said. “I loved it.

“I think (the libero) is kind of overlooked, even though you stand out the most on the court. But I think it’s a really key role.”

Hampton is off to another fast start after runner-up finishes last season in the WPIAL and PIAA.

The Talbots opened 5-0 in section play — winning each match by a 3-0 score — and 8-0 overall. They were ranked No. 2 in the WPIAL behind Moon and No. 4 in the state in the latest coaches’ polls.

Koontz, who plays club volleyball for Revolution, has helped the Talbots this season reach the title matches of the Mt. Lebanon and Shaler tournaments, where they lost to Pine-Richland and South Fayette, respectively.

Koontz pairs with freshman setter Lilly Muczinski to set up the Talbots’ powerful front row, led by all-WPIAL junior outside hitter Emmy Schrom, along with senior hitters Addison Gindlesperger and junior Emma Rick.

“She’s just always been athletic and a naturally gifted athlete,” Holler said of Koontz. “She always brings energy and a spark to the team. She provides that momentum that every team needs, and the girls really rally around her.”

The diminutive Koontz is almost always the shortest player on the court, surrounded by a cast of 6-footers. But she is fearless, sacrificing her body to run down a ball or diving to make a dig. She said digging the volleyball inches from the ground “is the biggest thing I love doing.”

“She tracks everything down,” Holler said. “There is no ball out of her reach or out of her range. She will go after anything.”

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