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Valley Sports Report
ATHENS — Athens volleyball coach Heather Hanson is hoping her team’s resiliency and versatility will lead to good things in 2023.

"I think resilience is a strength for this group," she said. "They are open-minded and willing to learn, which is huge.

"We are not a young team — four senior and seven juniors, but we are inexperienced," noted Hanson. "They are listening to what I’m asking of them … they are being very coachable, and that’s fantastic.

"We are also a versatile bunch this year," she added. "We have a lot of girls who can play multiple positions, and that makes life easier.

Junior Keaton Wiles and senior Izzy Davis will start at outside hitters for the Lady Wildcats, while juniors Anna Geisinger and Kassie Babcock will be the middle hitters.

Junior Sydney Field and sophomore Regan McDaniel will serve as the setters, and junior Ella Coyle is the libero.

Coming off the bench, junior Gretchen Schmieg could see time at any of the hitting spots, while senior Emily Marshall will primarily be a right-side hitter, senior Olivia Mustard will see time at outside hitter, and junior Hannah Earls will be a middle hitter. Senior Sam Mack will also see time.

Freshman Meg Wiles will start the season on JVs, but she could see some varsity time as the season progresses, Hanson says.

Hanson is looking for her team to gel as 2023 opens.

"Right now, it’s about playing together … getting time on the court together and getting in synch with each other," she said. "It’s already staring to happen, we just need to keep it going.

"We set our captains (senior Izzy Davis, Keaton Wiles, and Ella Coyle), and I think that will help with girls stepping up and developing the leadership roles we need to create the bond a team needs," Hanson added.

Hanson said she’s not really sure what to expect in terms of wins and losses this season.

"I expect hard work from the girls, for them to play hard and be proud of what they do on the court, and for them to learn from their mistakes," she said.

"I’m not good at predicting … I’d like to see us play .500 or better, preferably better, and qualify for Districts.

"It’s not about us winning right now, it’s about us playing our game — a good, solid volleyball game," noted Hanson. "If we do that, then the wins will take care of themselves.

"If we do come out on the short end of the score, it’s all about figuring out what we need to do to get that score to be in our favor," she added.

"Already this season, Towanda beat Canton, and Northeast Bradford beat Wellsboro," said Hanson. "it seems like in this conference this year, it looks like a transition year.

"North Penn-Liberty is always the team to beat," she added. "I always assume they will be strong, I’ve never seen them not be strong."


IN PHOTO: Athens junior Kassie Babcock. … VSR STOCK PHOTO.

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