It may sound like a broken record, but Holy Redeemer has a pretty good girls’ volleyball team.
The facts don’t lie.
Undefeated seasons. A conference winning streak of 100-plus games.
Not to mention the Royals return all-state player Nicole Slavoski.
But if you ask head coach Jack Kablick about the conference this season, he won’t lie.
“I don’t think we are the favorite,” he said.
The team who he thinks is the preseason favorite is no surprise, either.
“Delaware Valley is going to be pretty strong,” he said. “Their front row is back, and they have a good amount of starters back from their rotation.”
Nanticoke head coach Debbie Gavin agrees.
“Del Valley has a lot of tall, skilled and talented girls back this year. They are going to be tough,” the 30-plus year veteran coach said.
Welcome to the Wyoming Valley Conference in 2013, where it all starts with Redeemer and Del Valley.
The Royals return Slavoski, a strong hitter with power to all sides of the court.
“She can even set the ball if we need her to,” Kablick said. “No doubt, Nicole is one of the best players in the league. She is so versatile. She can do anything that we ask her to do.”
It’s amazing when you think that Redeemer lost Warnagiris, conference MVP last season, along with setter Biz Eaton and defensive specialist Sydney Kotch.
“We try to develop girls early,” he said. “Last year, we were starting to develop some of our younger girls so they were ready when the time came. And we also had some good players on our junior-varsity team that maybe some people don’t know about. We’ve just been lucky with good coaches and good, dedicated players.”
Delaware Valley, under the direction of Bridget Crawford, is looking for revenge. Last season, the Warriors’ lone setback was a four-set loss to Redeemer.
Back is Taylor Braunagel, a 6-foot middle hitter, along with the Balcarcel girls, Jessica and Marisa.
“It’s going to be a tough game,” Kablick said.
What else to look for in 2013?
Well, it’s the usual suspects that could make a run toward the top: Crestwood, Nanticoke and North Pocono.
Each one, though, has to overcome losses due to graduation.
Crestwood has to fill the shoes of multiple-year starter Carina Mazzoni at setter. Nanticoke lost two strong hitters in Kayley Schinski and Allie Matulewski, while North Pocono lost powerful outside Kelli Bray.
“Our goal is to always contend and be at the top of the conference,” Crestwood head coach Mike Willliams said. “It’s a tough league. You have the usual powers, and there are always one or two teams that prove to be a dark horse.”
That role, in the preseason, seems to fit two teams.
Both Lake-Lehman and Hazleton Area return a good portion of their lineup. The Knights lost hitter Bethany Williams, but return setter Maria Chinikaylo and Amy Williams. The Cougars, under first-year head coach Greg Cechak, bring back their entire team, including hitter Katie Landis.
But don’t count anyone out.
“You know that Redeemer and Delaware Valley are the top two teams,” Wyoming Valley West head coach R.J. Tomascik said. “But really, I think anyone could beat anyone on any given day. It’s going to be a good year to see what happens.”