Quaker Valley volleyball team gains experience, shows improvement

Sunday, October 31, 2021 | 11:01 AM

Call it a “near-miss” for the Quaker Valley girls volleyball team.

QV finished 4-8 in Section 2-2A, one game behind fourth-place finisher Brentwood (5-7), which earned the section’s final WPIAL playoff spot.

North Catholic, the defending WPIAL champion and a PIAA semifinalist a year ago, Avonworth, Seton LaSalle and Brentwood qualified as the section representatives in the WPIAL playoffs.

“I think the girls progressed as the season moved along, especially on the offensive side of the ball,” QV coach Mike Vavrek said. “We were a rather young and inexperienced team, and it takes some time to develop chemistry.

“We made a lot of mistakes early in the year. When we limited our mistakes and put balls away offensively, we were very competitive.”

Statistically, the Quakers were paced in two categories by senior libero and captain Anna Weisser, who was No. 1 in digs with 234 and service aces with 29.

“Anna was the most consistent player for us this year,” Vavrek said. “She was the heart and soul of this team, and we really went as well as she was going. She had the tough job of keeping this team, with the mix of younger and older girls we had contributing, focused on the court.

“She has done a lot over the last three years and will finish as one of the top defensive players I have coached.”

The 5-foot-3 Weisser was a three-year letter winner who saw a limited amount of court time as a freshman.

“It was, obviously, disappointing that we did not make it to the playoffs,” Weisser said, “but I am proud of how much our team grew together over the course of the season. With the amount of time we put in, it was a little disappointing that our record did not reflect it. I think this season was a great opportunity for the underclassmen to gain varsity experience, and I am excited to see the ways this helps them next year.”

Weisser said she will miss her relationships with her teammates the most once she graduates.

“My high school volleyball career was definitely difficult but very gratifying,” she said. “I think balancing school work and volleyball is always tough. But it taught me a lot about myself as an athlete, gave me an amazing leadership opportunity and brought me really close to my team.

“I will definitely miss getting to spend time with this group of girls every day.”

The team leaders in kills were senior middle/outside hitter and co-captain Elise Berry with 101 and sophomore right-side hitter Annica Kagle with 98. The 5-10 Berry also led the Quakers in blocks with 55.

“Elise is a solid, all-around player, someone you could ask to play any position and she will do a good job,” Vavrek said. “She has played all three front-row positions on varsity. She has also served and played defense. She was our most consistent blocker on the team this year.”

Kagle has grown into an impact player for QV. She wrapped up the season No. 2 on the squad in blocks with 49.

“We knew Annica would be a starter after having a good first year of club volleyball,” Vavrek said. “I knew she would be someone we were going to have to lean on to get kills, but I didn’t know she would lead us in attempts.”

QV’s sophomore right-side hitter Katelyn Clark, who played outside and middle at times, ended up third in kills with 59 and positive blocks with 46.

“I was really interested in seeing how Katelyn would perform this year,” Vavrek said. “After Elise and Annica, we were looking for another girl to help offensively, and it turned out to be her. She started out in a minimal role on the right side, more for her blocking, and by the end of the year turned into an outside hitter and one of our go-to hitters.”

The top two in assists were setters Vanessa Pickett, a freshman, with 172, and Shayna Cunnard, a junior, with 125. Pickett also finished second in service aces (17).

Two juniors, defensive specialist Hannah Lubert and outside hitter Kathryn Karwoski, placed second and third on the team in digs with 96 and 88, respectively.

“We expected Hannah to be in the mix this year; she definitely exceeded expectations,” Vavrek said. “She became a steady serve-receiver for us.”

Others in QV’s lineup included seniors Ruby Hale (RS) and Chanel Bosh (OH) and freshmen Molly MacDonald (MH) and Nora Hammond (OH/DS).

“I run a lot of girls in the rotation,” Vavrek said. “We made a few changes from the beginning of the year. We still ran most of the same players in the lineup with a couple of position changes and expanded roles.

“We improved in the (season’s) second half against every team with the exception of Brentwood. We really hurt ourselves by not taking care of the ball in a match where we had an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot.”

Brentwood defeated the Quakers, 3-1, on Oct. 14 in what proved to settle the battle for the section’s final playoff spot.

“Other than that, I like the way we progressed,” Vavrek said. “I want us to keep improving.”

Vavrek is a coaching veteran, having served as QV’s net boss for 11 seasons.

“We had freshmen and sophomores really step up to add some depth for us,” Vavrek said. “This freshman class is one of the most talented I have had at Quaker Valley. As freshmen, it is tough to step into a varsity role.”

There were seven sophomores and seven freshmen in the QV program, along with four seniors and three juniors.

“We had a lot of younger girls who got a taste of varsity volleyball,” Vavrek said, “and they should be better for it next year. I expect us to keep building and growing. We will have three seniors who are passionate, dedicated and willing to work hard.

“The JV team won their last seven matches, so we are certainly excited about that and seeing where some of those players will fit in on the varsity next year.”

Vavrek, whose assistants are Alex Newbrough and Mike Hensler, indicated the Quakers plan to work on decreasing the number of unforced errors for next season.

“The big thing is consistency,” Vavrek said. “We beat ourselves a lot at times this year, and that is something that needs to be worked on.

“As long as we continue to get in the gym and improve, we can maximize our potential as a team next year and continue to be competitive.”


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