WILKES-BARRE — She remembers her freshman season vividly. At times, Amanda Curcio still laughs about it.
“I could barely hit the ball over the net, and I didn’t hit it over consistently,” the Holy Redeemer senior said with a smile on her face.
Fast forward three years, and she’s become one of the best players in Pennsylvania and for all her hard work, Curcio was named the 2016 Girls Volleyball Player of the Year by the Times Leader.
“Playing volleyball at Holy Redeemer, it’s just different than every other team,” Curcio said. “I remember coming here when I was in junior high. I looked up at the banner and the championships, and said to myself that this is where I wanted to be. The girls taught me so much, and the coaching staff is great. Coach (Jack Kablick) pushed us each day in practice to be the best that we can be, and I give him so much credit. He saw the potential in each one of us.”
Leadership. Every team needs that one player when times get tough.
Sure, Curcio is ultra talented. She’s an all-state hitter, and almost certainly will be a two-time selection when the 2016 team is announced later this month. She’s powerful, and is one of the best attackers in the Wyoming Valley Conference. She also showed delicate hands, sharing with the setting duties with classmate Ashley Andrejko.
Ask Kablick about Curcio’s leadership and the veteran coach doesn’t beat around the bush, and he’s seen his fair share.
“Probably the best leader we’ve ever had on the girls team,” he said. “I like to say that she was the alpha dog in terms of leadership. Brynn (Kukosky) and Ashley were good leaders, but Amanda really took the role to another level. She was a leader before, during and after practice until she drove away from that parking lot. Honestly, she is one of the strongest leaders we’ve ever had – boys or girls.”
It’s something she’s proud of. And quite honestly, something Redeemer needed in 2016.
When the year started, it was possibly the youngest Royals squad in recent memory – if not ever in school history. There were only three players with varsity experience sprinkled with tons of young and talented sophomores.
“It was insane. And to get as far as we did was crazy,” Curcio said. “We had a such an experienced team my junior year, and we made it to the final eight. This young team, we showed them that hard work does pay off. I am very vocal on the court, and I take pride in that because I feel that it is important.
“With the sophomores, I was in their shoes. I was in that same spot myself. It was my sophomore year when Lauren (Slavoski) was a junior, and she helped me so much. I was so terrified to be on the varsity court that season. She was like my little therapist, calming me down all the time.”
It was a roller-coaster ride for the Royals.
Another district title, the team’s 10th straight. A berth in the PIAA Class 2A state semifinals, something Redeemer hasn’t done since 2009.
Yet, it was a loss to Delaware Valley early in the season that seemed to bring everything together.
“Honestly, that loss showed some of our weaknesses, but also showed a lot of our strengths,” Curcio said. “After the match, we met with each other and let it all out. The chemistry really improved from that match forward. Everything came together. Basically, you win as a team and you lose as a team.”
Curcio had another sensational year. She finished with 137 kills, 261 assists, 10 blocks, 22 digs and 62 service points in league play. If you count the team’s non-league and tournament matches, she finished with more than 250 kills and almost 450 assists.
“Players like Amanda don’t come around too often,” Kablick said, “especially when you combine her leadership and her talents on the court. She’s going to be a two-time all-state player. That’s pretty special.”
But it’s not over for Curcio. She plays on attending college to major in elementary education, and yes, continue her volleyball career.
“I put in a lot of hard work and determination to get to where I am today,” Curcio said. “Even though we didn’t make it the state final, it was still a great season. Sure, we would have loved to play for the state title, but hopefully the underclassmen will continue to build on this and get that state championship. Personally, I’ll never forget the memories I’ve made here at Holy Redeemer.”