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Valley Sports Report
WAVERLY — Hailee Herc may be a newcomer to the Waverly volleyball sidelines, but she begins her time at the reigns of the Lady Wolverine program with quite a pedigree.

Herc played at powerhouse Eden High School for legendary coach Steven Pierce. She played on two state title teams, and advanced to state final four all four years.

She then went on to play at Div. I at Stony Brook, where she started coaching club volleyball with Academy volleyball at the age of 18.

Herc went on to get here Master’s at SUNY Cortland, where she was grad assistant for two years, and interim head coach for a spring season.

Herc ended up back at Eden as head coach, and directed the program to six Section VI titles. Last year, she coached at SUNY Cobleskill.

Herc said her goal is to build the Waverly program from the bottom up.

“(Eden) always had a local club team for 10U and 12U, and that’s how the girls there started at 8 and 9 years old.

“I’ve been working with (middle school principal) Kate Pichany on different things we can do here after school with third, fourth, fifth, and sixth-graders to start getting them involved,” she said.

“I want a program that’s affordable to everybody,” noted Herc. “It’s difficult for parents when girls are 9 years old and you have to pay hundreds of dollars to play club.

“I want to find something we can offer to everybody, and get the kids involved in the sport at a younger age,” she added.

Herc notes she’s already begun the process with a few little things.

“We’re trying to get the JV and varsity kids to do the same thing, so we’re kind of running practices together,” she said. “The JV girls are doing the same drills as the varsity … we’re trying to build the program from the bottom to the top.

“The varsity girls are also going to be at the modified practices twice a week to teach the modified girls to get them involved and progress their skills a little bit more.

“It’s something we can get started quickly to get the younger kids involved and learning,” she added.

Herc is also changing things in terms of volleyball Xs and Os.

“We’re learning a different offense, and we’re learning a different defense, so we’re trying to break everything down to Square One,” she said. “We’re trying to add a quicker offense, a more foundational defense, and getting them synching with a higher volleyball IQ.

“We’re really trying to break down fundamentals, work on basic skills, and grow from there,” noted Herc.

“From what I’ve seen, (the program) has lacked being able to advance their game to a higher level,” added Herc. “I’m trying to get the girls to step outside their comfort zone, and try some new things.”

Herc will have some experienced hands on the sidelines with her as Morgan Lynch is back as the JV coach, and former S-VE coach Sarah (Heveland) Pritchard is assistant coach for both JV and varsity.

The numbers were good this fall, notes Herc, with the varsity at 13 players, and the JV at 14.

“It’s a good number,” she said. “Anything more is too much, and anything less you can’t really scrimmage in practice.”

As she gets familiar with her team, Herc said the potential is there.

“They only graduated one senior from last year, so we essentially have the same team, and they did well last year.

“I’m hoping we can get them a little bit further along in Sectionals, and have a little bit better showing there,” she said.

Senior Erica Ryck, and junior Lillie Kirk will start at outside hitters for the Lady Wolverines,, while junior Maddie Olmsted, and senior Lily Smith, who sat out last year after transferring in from Sayre, will be at setters.

“We’re trying to run a 6-2, but might run a 5-1, so we’re kind of playing around with both setters to see which one will be the best for us,” said Herc.

Seniors Peyton Shaw and Ashlen Croft will be in the middle for Waverly, and sophomore Brilynn Belles will start at libero.

Coming off the bench, senior Natalie Lauper and junior Meghan Apgar will see time as defensive specialists / libero, while sophomore newcomer Sadie De Olden-Murphy will be on the right side, juniors Alayna Miller and Maddie Farnham will vie for time as outside hitters and junior Lauryn DeLill will see time in the middle.

Herc is looking for team’s cohesiveness to be a big strength in 2023.

“I asked the girls what the team’s strength was, and they believe it’s the fact they are a close-knit team — they all hang out, and they all get along outside of practice, and outside of school.

“I think volleyball is a sport where you have to have trust in your teammates, she said. “That’s true in all sports, but volleyball is different. You can’t give one person the ball, and tell them to score a basket, or score a touchdown. Three different people have to touch the ball, and if you don’t have that trust it’s hard to build it.

“They already have a good foundation, with their ability to trust each other,” she noted. “In practice, they push each other, they work hard, and they hold each other accountable.

“Their attitudes, and the way they work as a team has been great,” Herc added.

Experience should be another strength

“A lot of them have been playing on varsity, so they know what is expected,” said Herc.

“I think playing in Sectionals last year was good for them, but they think they could have done better.

“They’re coming back this year wanting to prove a point that they can win at the Sectional level, and they’ve come in with that attitude,” Herc added.

Like most coaches at Waverly this fall, Herc knows moving from the IAC to the STAC will be an adjustment.

“In the IAC, (the program) was a big fish in a little pond, and it did really well,” she said. “I don’t think the girls really had to elevate their game.

“Now, we’re a small fish in a big pond (the STAC), and we’re just going to have to be better volleyball players, and have that higher volleyball IQ that they didn’t really need before.

“It’s pushing them to get better, and we’re trying to push them one step further to elevate them one step higher than they were before,” added Herc.

Waverly opens the 2023 campaign at Oneonta Tuesday evening.


IN PHOTO: Waverly volleyball coach Hailee Herc.

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