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Hart of gold

November 12, 1996

By BOB PARASILITI

Staff Writer

WILLIAMSPORT - The setting is familiar. Kristi Hart has been involved in a couple Class 1A state volleyball semifinals before.

But this time, Hart finds herself in a different position. She'll be sitting.

The first few times Hart was at the state tournament, she was a prominent part of the Wildcats' tradition as a member of the 1987 and 1988 teams. Last year, she assisted coach Emily Crabtree in the Wildcats' run to the state crown. This time, she'll be at the head of the bench when Williamsport faces Edgewood tonight at 8 at Essex Community College as the first-year head coach of the defending state champions.

"It's enjoyable, but I wish I was playing instead," Hart said. "I had hoped I'd get back here someday, but doing getting back in my first season was more than I ever expected."

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A modest statement coming from the latest foreman at the Williamsport championship volleyball factory. As long as many can remember, the Wildcats have churned out contenders for Class 1A state titles. The 1996 team has a different look but the results have been pleasingly familiar.

"Coming in, I didn't know if we had enough to make it," Hart said. "We lacked height and we lost our two middle hitters from last year. If we came up against a big team, I didn't know what would happen. But the girls have given me everything to work with. We've tried to capitalize on each player's strengths. If I run down the list of our 13 players, I could tell you the strength they bring to the team."

Hart has adapted almost an assembly line style of coaching. Each of the 13 players are interchangeable pieces that has built a 16-1 record and another Class 1A West region title. It is a role call of talent for Hart.

There's Donna Hudson, who is a "good hitter in the middle." Ann Fulk is "excellent at setting and serving and is a good all-around player." Janet Richmond is Williamsport's "unsung hero with her passing, defense and smart play." Britt Jones is Williamsport's surprising hitter because "she hits the ball with either hand and she keeps the opponents guessing." Melissa Barrett is "our other starting setter who gives us consistency." Carrie Weimer does "a lot of our blocking." And Angie Heil is considered the Wildcats' "seventh starter."

"We've tried to mix them all together on the floor," Hart said. "I've tried to learn all the different things each player can do and use them in the situations we needed them. We've tried to give everyone on the team as much playing time as possible. Winning is great, but I want to make sure that the girls enjoy this as a positive experience that they will remember."

Hart can think of no better experience than the state tournament, like she had nine years ago.

"I'll tell them that we have the skills to win and that we can take the state title if we play well," Hart said. "But I want them to remember that so many teams played this year wanting to get to this point, so enjoy it."

Hart did and she figures some of the memories will come rushing back when she takes her seat on the bench tonight at Essex.

"But only the good ones, I hope," Hart said.

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