Tonawanda News — It’s the next generation’s turn to take over.
Last season North Tonawanda coach Jessica Anderson bid farewell to Delaney Laper and Jordan Tylec who, along with Lauren Metzger and Sarah Hansen, were the key cogs of the 2009 team that won the sectional title.
But the Lady Jacks are in good hands as they enter the 2012 season with sophomores Leanna Metzger (OH) and Gabby Hansen (OH) as the team’s leaders.
The younger sisters of Lauren and Sarah, Leanna and Gabby, worked their ways into the starting lineup as freshmen and quickly established themselves as impact players that Anderson could count on and build around.
While the team is on the younger side as a whole, early on they’ve all shown their willingness to work hard and sacrifice their bodies by diving on the floor for balls.
“Hard work wins games,” Hansen said.
Eighth-grader Julie Milbrand, sophomore Kayla Higgins and senior Amber Kudla are all up from JV and should see plenty of quality minutes. Katherine Zgolak, who last played NT volleyball as a seventh grader, returns to the program after playing for the Lady Jacks soccer team.
Optimism is also high in the Lady Jacks camp because the rest of the Niagara Frontier League has experienced a changing of the guard. While Grand Island appears to be the team to beat on paper, for the most part it is somewhat of an open field, where on any given night any team can beat anyone else. Anderson feels that if her team works to its potential there is no reason they can’t secure a spot in the top three.
Sonja Toye, Rachel Malone, Danielle Kenney, Rachel Wieclaw and Ashley Brodfuehrer complete the team. The Lady Jacks open the season on Sept. 7 when they host long time rival Kenmore West.
— Dave Ricci
The combination of nine returning seniors and unmatched desire has third-year coach Lindsay Garbacz excited about what her Tonawanda Lady Warriors volleyball team can accomplish this year.
The Warriors will look to senior captain Danielle Palladino (middle), Joanna McCarthy (outside hitter), Sarah Sankey (setter) and Whitney Owens to set the tone day in and day out. But while Garbacz knows she can count on her captains to lead the way, what has her looking forward to this season the most is the commitment and desire to improve as a team that every girl has shown.
“They’re willing to learn,” Garbacz said.”They’re soaking up every little bit of information that I’m giving them.”
Palladino will bring the intensity, focus and burning desire to win that the rest of the team will feed off of. Sankey has a tremendous working knowledge of the game and will no doubt be the Warriors general on the floor.
Garbacz said that as a group she sees the passion in their eyes to want to succeed. Winning is not thought of as a nice surprise. It’s to be expected-no matter who they play. Ashley Kowalcyk, Abby Moore, Juliana Tirone, Alyssa LoGrasso, Carly Morris, Julie Gagliardo, Samantha Rodriguez and Christiana Rodriguez complete the roster.
Tonawanda opens its season on Sept. 11 at home against Cleveland-Hill.
— Dave Ricci
The Hawks went 10-11 last season and coach Brad Lorich said it was one of the best season Cardinal O’Hara has had in recent years.
Lorich said that’s not even the best part — his team returns virtually every player and all of its key parts. He said he’s always had young teams that never really reached their apex as an entire whole, but this year’s squad could be special.
“We’re expecting to be better,” Lorich said. “After taking our lumps the past few years playing young players I now have nine seniors this year.”
The Hawks are able to concentrate on the technical aspects of the game instead of wasting time with the basics. Lorich said he’s now able to implement a great deal of strategy that hasn’t been possible in the past.
“We’re going to take the game to the next level,” Lorich said. “This is the first year we’ve had an older, experienced team.”
The key players for the Hawks are seniors Sara DiPasquale (MH) and Kelsey Kobza (C).
— Matt Parrino
Insanity just may be the buzzword for the Lady Bulldogs this season. No, the Bulldogs haven’t gone crazy.
Coach Nicole Hoover has been training her girls hard everyday to the “Insanity” workout DVD. And it’s doing the trick as the Lady Bulldogs focus and conditioning is better than ever before.
The Lady Bulldogs return sophomore libero Julia Snitzer, along with seniors Deidre Rudroff (setter) and Chelsea Weselak (setter), Amanda Roberts (middle) and Jackie Schwob (right side).
Hoover is also excited about sophomore Paige Palmer who gives them height in the middle. Optimism is also high in the Lady Bulldogs camp as they know that every team in the NFL has experienced a changing of the guard in their lineups.
“You can go up against any team in this league,” Hoover told her girls.
The Lady Bulldogs are looking forward to home games at Ken East after holding practices and home games at Kenmore Middle School while the Ken East gym was being renovated.
— Dave Ricci
The Lady Blue Devils graduated six seniors who were either starters or saw significant playing time in 2011. But there is still plenty to be excited about as the Blue Devils return six girls, most notably senior and five-year varsity standout Sarah Pray.
Without question the best setter in the NFL, Pray’s varsity and club experience will give the Blue Devils the edge on most nights as they do battle in what could be a wide-open NFL.
Pray will be joined by Elizabeth Gallagher, and Rebecca Gourlay as the Blue Devils tri-captains.
”They’re such a good core group and they’re such good friends as well that I think it’ll be a really nice chemistry between them and all of our new girls coming up,” coach Kelly Strong said.
Christina Lekki, Erin Whipple and Dana Mancuso also return and will play even bigger roles for the Blue Devils. The Blue Devils welcome six new faces to varsity.
— Dave Ricci
Contact Sports Editor
Matt Parrino at 693-1000,
ext. 4117, and find Tonawanda News Sports on Twitter:
@tonanewssports.Contact Sports Editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000 ext. 4117 and find Tonawanda News Sports on Twitter: @tonanewssports