WVC volleyball preview: Experienced Holy Redeemer aims for super season

By Tom Robinson - For Times Leader
Holy Redeemer’s Julia Andrejko (3) and Sarah Kuderka (29) have been mainstays for the Royals for years and now enter their senior season. - Tony Callaio file photo | For Times Leader

A highly decorated senior class, even by Holy Redeemer’s lofty standards, has the Royals entering Friday’s season opener in a customary role – as the clear Wyoming Valley Conference favorite looking for more accolades when competing outside of conference play.

Skylar Osenkarski, the reigning Times Leader Player of the Year, is trying to become the second three-year, all-state player in the program’s history. The other was Monica Wignot, who used her career with the Royals to land at the Division I University of Pittsburgh.

Sarah Kuderka and Julia Andrejko are also back for their senior years after earning Class 2A all-state recognition from the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association.

It does not end there.

“They’re surrounded by a lot of experience,” coach John Kablick Sr. said. “The volleyball IQ on this team is extremely high.”

Although three starters graduated from last year, four more experienced players return.

Setter Korren Hicks, outside hitter Samantha Carr, middle hitter Sarah Liskowicz and outside hitter Livia Moore are also back. Moore is a junior while much of the rest of the playing time will be in the hands of seniors.

“Those girls that are now seniors went to a Final Four as sophomores,” Kablick said. “They weren’t the key players, but they were all in some sort of a rotation. Six of these girls were varsity players as freshmen and we never brought that many people up. This year, we didn’t bring up any freshmen.

“They’ve been through the Final Four, district competition, last year’s (state quarterfinal) against Delone (Catholic) and we do a tournament or two each year that is very competitive.”

All that shared experience changes the way Kablick and his coaching staff operates at practice.

“They’ve played together,” Kablick said. “The chemistry is very good. We don’t say much in practice any more as coaches.

“We’ll make a few adjustments here and there, but this team is running pretty well and it’s running because of their experience.”

Osenkarski’s background is as a middle hitter, Kuderka as a libero and Andrejko as an outside hitter/center back.

The time the seven have spent together on the court also may change the way the team plays.

Holy Redeemer may make fewer of the situational substitutions that are common in a volleyball rotation.

“We’re not going to have very many substitutions this year,” Kablick said. “There are going to be some matches where we won’t have any.

“We may have one or two, but most of them are playing all the way around, playing all six positions.”

That includes Osenkarski expanding her role.

“She made all-state by playing front row only the last two years,” Kablick said. “This year, we’ve expanded her role to a back-row defensive player and back-row attack.

“It’s working out really well.”

When Kablick needs to find new combinations or insert a specialist, he has a 15-player varsity roster from which to work.

“We go pretty deep, all the way down to 15 that can play,” said Kablick of a group that includes three more hitters, two more setters and three more defensive specialists.

The conference produced three of District 2’s four champions last year.

Delaware Valley, the 4A champion, and Nanticoke, the 3A champion, are considered the top threats to Holy Redeemer even though they have significant graduation losses to overcome.

Dallas and Tunkhannock have the potential to continue to rise up and perhaps climb past those teams if they struggle.

Wyoming Valley West, last year’s third-place team, is the other likely to wind up in the top third of the 18-team league.

Hazleton Area, Meyers and Pittston Area appear to be the best of the rest.

Holy Redeemer’s three returning starters are all returning first-team Times Leader all-stars.

Jilann Baron from Nanticoke is the only other first-teamer returning. Nanticoke also has a second-teamer back in Alyssa Lewis.

Gianna Musto from Dallas, Da’Nayia Ballard from Meyers and Hicks from Holy Redeemer are the other returning second-team choices.

WVC CAPSULES

HOLY REDEEMER

2017 WVC Record: 17-0

2017 Postseason: Beat Lake-Lehman, 3-0, in semifinals and Dunmore, 3-0, in finals to win District 2 Class 2A title. Beat North Penn-Liberty, 3-0, in state tournament, before losing to Delone Catholic, 3-0, in quarterfinals.

2018 Classification: 2A

Outlook: The return of all-state selections Skylar Osenkarski, Sarah Kuderka and Julia Andrejko, also first-team Times Leader all-stars, makes coach John Kablick Sr.’s team the clear favorite. Korren Hicks, a second-team, all-star, also returns.

DELAWARE VALLEY

2017 WVC Record: 16-1

2017 Postseason: Lost to Bethlehem Freedom, 3-2, in District 2-11 Class 4A Subregional. Defeated Wyoming Valley West, 3-0, for District 2 Class 4A championship.

2018 Classification: 4A

Outlook: The Warriors became the only team to prevent Holy Redeemer from winning a WVC title when they won it all in 2016. They may not be ready for their second conference title in three years, but they remain a threat to win a ninth straight District 2 championship among the largest classification of schools. Senior libero Hannah Lee, senior opposite Evie Kelly and senior outside hitter Liz Bobo are the returning starters. “Our expectations are to continue with the success of our program by serving strong and use key players in each rotation,” coach Bridget Crawford said.

NANTICOKE

2017 WVC Record: 14-3

2017 Postseason: Beat Dallas, 3-1, and Abington Heights, 3-1, to win District 2-11 Class 3A championship. Lost to West York, 3-0, in first round of state tournament.

2018 Classification: 3A

Outlook: Senior outside hitters Jilann Baron and Alyssa Lewis and senior setter Carly Reakes return to the starting lineup, but the loss of seven seniors has coach Deb Gavin describing it as a “rebuilding situation.”

DALLAS

2017 WVC Record: 12-5

2017 Postseason: Beat Shamokin, 3-1, then lost to Nanticoke, 3-1, in semifinals of District 2-11 Class 3A playoffs.

2018 Classification: 3A

Outlook: Seniors Gianna Musto (outside hitter), Megan Sebastianelli (defensive specialist), Angelina Allen (libero) and Shelby Carr (right side) all return to the starting lineup to give coach Mike Shmakov a chance to move the team even higher than last season’s fifth-place finish in his second year as head coach.

TUNKHANNOCK

2017 WVC Record: 10-7

2017 Postseason: Lost to Western Wayne, 3-1, in District 2-11 Class 3A Subregional quarterfinals.

2018 Classification: 3A

Outlook: Karen Passarelli moves up JV coach to take over as head coach at Tunkhannock, which has a veteran lineup. “We have an awesome group of girls this year, with a lot of returning talent and skills, which should help us achieve our goal of reaching the playoffs and beyond.”

WYOMING VALLEY WEST

2017 WVC Record: 15-2

2017 Postseason: Lost to Easton, 3-1, in District 2-11 Class 4A Subregional first round. Lost to Delaware Valley, 3-0, in District 2 Class 4A championship match.

2018 Classification: 4A

Outlook: Seniors Tessa Johns, Sidney Scarcella, Andi Blaski, Lindsay Gruver and Rhena Lauver all have starting experience. Johns is in her third year setting and Scarcella in her third year hitting. Blaski is a middle hitter while Gruver is a weakside hitter/defensive player. Lauver started the last six matches of 2017 as outside hitter. Junior defensive specialist and freshman middle hitter Trinity Johnson join the lineup with senior Alliyah Mann and junior Sommer Wright also figuring into the mix. “We have a solid group of seniors who have experience which helps with having a freshmen and sophomore seeing significant time on the floor,” coach R.J. Tomascik said.

HAZLETON AREA

2017 WVC Record: 5-12

2018 Classification: 4A

Outlook: Senior Erika Paisley is back as outside hitter while another senior Candice Biesadesky moves from being a defensive specialist to playing middle hitter. Sophomore Brooke Boretski takes over as setter after serving as a back-up there last year when she was a middle hitter. Junior Maddison Plush was a key sub as outside hitter last year. Senior Nicole McNeal, juniors Ashley John, Olivia Racho and Faith Grula and sophomore Alivia Platek could also figure into plans. “We are returning a team with experience so we are hoping to meet our goal of getting to .500 or better,” coach Carmen Flores said. Every year, we have gotten closer and closer and this year, the chemistry is really there.”

MEYERS

2017 WVC Record: 11-6

2017 Postseason: Beat Lackawanna Trail, 3-0, in District 2 Class 2A playoffs, then lost to Dunmore, 3-1, semifinals.

2018 Classification: 2A

Outlook: The Mohawks made great strides a year ago, helping land Jocelyn Robertson Times Leader Coach of the Year honors. Senior middle hitter Da’Nayia Ballard is back for her third season as starter while fellow seniors, Ileaqua Adams, a setter, and Ashly Gutierrez, the libero, also return. Seniors Naomi Olmedo, Asucena Vergara, Kadijah Darboe and Tyla Powell all have some experience and sophomore hitter Ar’Lasja Hayes is looking to crack the lineup. “The team’s goal this year is to give it all they have and show everyone one last time what Meyers has to offer because this is our last season as Meyers Mohawks,” Robertson said.

PITTSTON AREA

2017 WVC Record: 9-8

2018 Classification: 3A

Outlook: Johanna Rehill, an assistant last year, returns to the head coaching position that she previously held. “With the combination of our upperclassmen’s skill and expertise, and some great potential from the sophomore and freshmen classes, we hope to have a successful season,” Rehill said. Senior Emily O’Brien and juniors Michalie Mazurkivich and Emma Coles return to the starting lineup. Tiara George, a sophomore, took over as setter part way through last season.

WYOMING AREA

2017 WVC Record: 8-9

2018 Classification: 3A

Outlook: Senior middle hitter Brandi Sorokin, junior middle hitter Selena Forlenza, senior outside hitter Hunter Chervenitski and senior setter Jenna Chackan are all back for their third seasons as starters. Junior Marissa Kovaleski also returns to the lineup. “I expect to have a great season with a better record than the previous year and to make playoffs,” coach Brian Reese said. “We have the experience and discipline to do so.”

MMI PREP

2017 WVC Record: 8-9

2017 Postseason: Beat Susquehanna, 3-0, in District 2 Class A semifinals, then lost to Blue Ridge, 3-1, in championship match.

2018 Classification: A

Outlook: Three-year starters Elisa Hreha, a defensive specialist/outside hitter, and Summer Evancho, a middle hitter/middle blocker, return for their senior years. The Preppers have 17 other girls returning to the program, a large number for such a small school. Coach Shawn Evans said the team is “looking forward to a great season” after finishing as District 2 runner-up for the third straight year.

BERWICK

2017 WVC Record: 8-9

2018 Classification: 3A

Outlook: After two straight playoff appearances, Berwick fell short last year, then lost six starters to graduation. “We have been working hard to build chemistry and develop leaders,” coach Sarah Warner said. “Our girls have responded well and have shown significant growth.” Junior right-side hitter Alexis Hunsinger is the only returning starter but senior outside hitters Katie Spencer and Natalie Blockus and sophomore setter Karley Hower also have experience.

LAKE-LEHMAN

2017 WVC Record: 7-10

2017 Postseason: Beat Forest City, 3-0, in District 2 Class 2A playoffs, then lost to Holy Redeemer, 3-0, in semifinals.

2018 Classification: 3A

Outlook: Boys coach Chris Kukosky takes over the girls team that has six returning starters from a playoff qualifier from a year ago. The Black Knights do have the challenge of moving up to a higher classification. Seniors Morgan Marchakitus, Casey Dale, Morgan Chritchison, Macenzi Barker, Jess Salus and Corinna Scoblick are the returning starters. Junior outside hitter Autumn Savitski has worked her way into the starting lineup. “I am very pleased at how the team has progressed over the past few weeks and the way they have accepted the change to their system, especially the seniors,” Kukosky said.

NORTH POCONO

2017 WVC Record: 6-11

2018 Classification: 3A

CRESTWOOD

2017 WVC Record: 4-13

2018 Classification: 3A

HANOVER AREA

2017 WVC Record: 2-15

2018 Classification: 2A

COUGHLIN

2017 WVC Record: 1-16

2018 Classification: 3A

Outlook: The Crusaders are entering the last year of the program.

GAR

2017 WVC Record: 0-17

2018 Classification: 3A

Outlook: The Grenadiers go into their final season having won just once in the last two seasons.

Holy Redeemer’s Julia Andrejko (3) and Sarah Kuderka (29) have been mainstays for the Royals for years and now enter their senior season.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/web1_Holy-Redeemer-NPennLiberty-2CMYK-1.jpgHoly Redeemer’s Julia Andrejko (3) and Sarah Kuderka (29) have been mainstays for the Royals for years and now enter their senior season. Tony Callaio file photo | For Times Leader

By Tom Robinson

For Times Leader

Reach Times Leader sports at 570-829-7143 or on Twitter @TLSports

Reach Times Leader sports at 570-829-7143 or on Twitter @TLSports