Mix of veterans, young players providing spark for Ligonier Valley volleyball

Monday, October 3, 2022 | 10:45 AM

With just one senior on its roster, the Ligonier Valley girls volleyball team has been looking to its younger veterans for a spark this year.

And there are many.

On a team with 21 girls, a total of 14 are either sophomores or freshmen, many with prior varsity experience.

Outside hitter Rudy Wallace returns for her final year, hoping for an assist from those underclass players for whom coach Emily Daugherty has been watching closely.

“Rudy is a great leader,” Daugherty said of the team’s lone senior, “but we need the others to step up and match that intensity.”

One such candidate, junior Abby Tutino, has filled the libero role this year after spending time last season at outside hitter.

“She continues to get better,” Daugherty said. “She told me before the start of the year that she wanted to play at the position. I said, ‘Buckle in and focus on it,’ and she has been working hard.”

Daugherty said junior setter Saylor Clise has been an ideal model for the younger players to follow.

Clise last season took on the position with no prior experience, but Daugherty said she has adapted nicely and continues to progress this year.

“It was a lot of pressure for her. She had to grow up very quickly,” Daugherty said. “She’s been coming along, and she’s getting better every day.

“Since we’re a younger team, we’ve just had to adjust our lineup, and Saylor is someone we can lean on. She’s capable of reeling in some of these inexperienced sophomores and freshmen and showing them the way.”

It isn’t always reflected in the results, yet Daugherty believes the program is continuing to build tradition in just its third season in the WPIAL.

Not that the Rams have been a slouch on the court. Quite the contrary.

In their first two seasons since leaving District 6 in 2020, they made their presence known with a combined Section 5-2A record of 13-10. What’s more, they qualified both years for the playoffs and won a match each time.

“Our goal is to continue to grow our program,” Daugherty said.

She’s focused on building from the ground up, she said, by continuing to expand the youth and summer league teams.

“Knowing we’re in the WPIAL now,” she said, “we know that’s what we have to do to compete. I do think we can compete. Our team is really young.”

Ligonier Valley (5-7, 2-4 Section 5-2A) has been on an up-and-down ride following the departure of four seniors from last year’s 7-4 finish in Section 5-2A.

“A lot of these girls are still figuring out some things, but we’ve liked what we’ve seen with a number of them,” said Daugherty, a former Ligonier Valley basketball star with no volleyball experience prior to taking over the program in 2020.

“It took me some time to figure it out,” she said. “There are days when I still don’t figure it out completely. I do the research, and I work to try to figure it out to make these girls better.”

Ligonier Valley figured to learn from an encouraging effort in a 3-0 loss on Thursday to Freeport, ranked No. 1 in Class 2A. It ended a two-match winning streak. The Rams were preparing to play a pair of section opponents this week with a trip Tuesday to Valley and a home encounter Thursday with Burrell.

“We have our walls we face, of course,” Daugherty said. “I think every team does. But we’re learning to play together, especially a lot of these younger girls, who are showing potential.”


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