By TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
TIOGA CENTER — Despite what Des Ford termed a “different year,” Tioga advanced to the Section IV, Class D finals before bowing out to eventual state champion Bainbridge-Guilford. This year, Ford sees a return to “Tioga volleyball."
(Tioga opens the 2019 season Tuesday night when it hosts Newark Valley.)
“I feel good about this group, mainly because of their work ethic and how they entered the first day, and what we’ve done for almost three weeks.
“The whole atmosphere is just different than last year,” said Ford. “I haven’t changed … seniors leave, juniors become seniors, sophomores become juniors, they age a year maturity-wise. They’re working hard, having fun, and doing what I ask them.
“The focus, the wanting to be better, and the determination — those are the things that make the foundation of Tioga volleyball. I see that with this team,” added Ford. “It feels like Tioga volleyball again.”
Ford may have her eye on a sixth Section IV title in eight years, but only expressed modest expectations for the 2019 season.
“My expectation is to not have three losses in the league,” laughed Ford, in reference to three league losses last year on the heels of an 87-match regular season win streak that ended early in 2018. “I want us to play well, and execute at a high level. I want us to put it all together and perform the way we’ve learned to perform. I just want the girls to play the best they can.”
Senior Giovanna Rossi will start at outside hitter, along with senior Madison Macumber, while senior Chloe Bellis, and junior Katelyn Perry will start at setter.
Junior Ari Manwaring and sophomore Emme Hall will start at middle hitters, while Shaina Franks will see time on defense, and senior Bri Rossi will be the libero.
Sophomore Julia Bellis will see time as back row defensive specialist, while sophomore Molly Bombard will play across the front for Perry, and senior Allyson Chapman and junior Mary Taylor could see time at multiple positions.
Ford believes the biggest difference between this year’s team and last year's is leadership.
“I think leadership will be a strength for this team,” she said. “Giovanna Rossi has stepped up and become a leader, and Chloe (Bellis), Kaitlyn (Perry), Madison (Macumber), and Bri (Rossi) also bring elements of leadership as well.
“I see different dynamics with leadership, they each bring it in different ways,” Ford added.
Ford reiterates she likes what she sees in the 2019 Lady Tigers.
“I really don’t have a concern with this team,” she said. “There are thing we have to work on, and things we have to tweak, but I don’t see any major weaknesses with this team.
“I think we need to keep doing what we’re doing,” added Ford. “This is normal for me. Last year, things were different.”
THE IAC SMALL SCHOOL DIVISION
Candor was the dominant team in the IAC South Small School Division last year. It beat Tioga twice in the regular season, and even won the Tioga Tournament, but the Lady Tigers won when it mattered most — winning a one-game playoff to advance to the Section IV, Class D finals.
“I think those (Candor) matches will be wars again this year,” said Ford. “I expect big matches with Candor, and I expect to battle them for the division.
“I also think S-VE will be tough, and Newfield was much tougher the second time we played them last year.
“I think the (IAC) is stronger this year,” added Ford. “I expect strong matches against Edison, Waverly, Watkins Glen. It’s going to be tough, but I want tough.”
SECTION IV, CLASS D
“B-G is down this year, they are rebuilding,” said Ford. “I’d have to say Candor, and maybe S-VE, will be the other teams to watch.”
IN PHOTO: Tioga senior Giovanna Rossi.
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