Despite losing the first scrimmage against Burlington Township High School and the first game against Notre Dame High School, the volleyball team is confident in a strong season going forward.
Captain Ashley Smithers ’16 said of the two opening games against Notre Dame, “We had a lot of communication, we talked a lot [on the court] and the final score [of the sets] was 25–21 and 25–20.”
According to Smithers, the surge of communication can be attributed to the fact that there are a lot more girls this season who also play on a club team, thus increasing the skill level as a whole. Instead of focusing time during preseason on teaching basic skills like passing and serving, club participation allows the team to dive directly into the season.
“[Having players on club teams is beneficial] because the dynamic at club is a lot different and there’s a lot more experience,” said Noa Levy ’17, a middle. “So it helps the girls who aren’t as experienced to learn the ways of volleyball.”
“[Having girls who play club] inspires their teammates to want to play or at least work out year round, too, because they see what an improvement it has coming back to the season,” said Head Coach Patricia Manhart.
As the captain, Smithers has been working on helping the members of the team bond as well as integrating the newer players into the team. She derives much of her leadership from what she learned from her preceding captain, Lydia Bhattacharya ’15.
“I’ve learned to be open to ideas and open to different things going on in the group … learning how to be a good leader without shoving my way into people,” Smithers said.
In addition to preseason training, each runner had a list of summer workouts they had to do, ranging from three to ten miles. Princeton Pacers, a local running store, held summer runs for cross country athletes around the country that many PHS runners attended.
“[It’s good to] make game-like drills; there’s always a consistent focus. [It helps] to just get them used to getting in as many contacts on the volleyball,” Manhart said. “[Problems with] ball control was something I saw one week. Then we did ball control drills [during practice], and I saw it improve in the next week. So I definitely take it match by match, as far as what hurt us the most.”
“[Coach Manhart] tells us what we have to work on but no matter what the game is, whether we’re winning or losing, she always keeps us happy and positive and just tells us what we need to work on,” Smithers said.
This will be especially important going forward as, due to a “pay-to-play” policy in which the team has to pay for all of its games, there will only be three home games. Still, the number of games has increased since last year and the team is currently selling cookie dough and having other fundraisers to cover the cost of buying uniforms and attending games.
Smithers also has high expectations for the future of the season.
“I’m thinking we’ll be at the Mercer County Tournament, and I’m hoping for the finals,” Smithers said.