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HCC signs 7 as foundation for volleyball program

February 29, 2008|By DAN KAUFFMAN

The Hagerstown Community College volleyball team underwent a changing of the guard Thursday at the HCC athletic complex.

Seven athletes - six from Washington County - signed letters of intent to play for the Hawks beginning this fall. With only one player - North Hagerstown graduate Kierra Nelson - expected to return from last year's squad which went 42-6 and finished seventh in the NJCAA Division II national tournament, the seven signees will be major pieces from the start.

"It's a good group, a good mix of positions," Hawks coach Beth Domenico said. "We're still waiting for one or two more girls to answer us, and searching for one or two more. ... We're always pushing to do better every year. This recruiting class is shaping up to be a seasoned group."

Three Herald-Mail All-Area players headline the group. Perhaps the most important is Boonsboro's Tara Garver, an All-Area Second Team setter who averaged 4.66 assists and 2.26 kills and served 74 aces in her senior season.

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Garver will be taking the spot previously held by Jessica Ambrose, an All-Maryland JuCo First Team selection last season after finishing second in the nation with 12.31 assists per game. It's nothing new for Garver, who did the same thing at Boonsboro after Ambrose graduated in 2006.

"I've been waiting for this opportunity since my sophomore year," Garver said. "I'm ready."

"Since I've been here, we've never had a setter who's as dominant a hitter as she is," Domenico said. "She's a perfect 6-2 setter. We're going to have more options with her."

Three Williamsport players signed Thursday - middle hitter Katie Koontz, outside hitter Hailee Growden and setter Lindsey Kneisley.

Koontz, an All-County Second Team selection last season, averaged 2.26 kills.

"She is a very athletic player," Domenico said. "She has improved greatly in the middle. I also like her outside. We'll put her where she fits best."

Growden, an All-Area Second Team selection last season, averaged 2.01 kills and 3.32 digs and served 50 aces for the Wildcats. She also was Williamsport's fiery leader.

"I love playing the leadership role, trying to fire up my team," Growden said. "I'm ready for any challenge, any position."

"She's going to be one of our emotional leaders," Domenico said. "She's a versatile player so we might try some different things with her."

Kneisley averaged 3.56 assists per game for the Wildcats. She's looking forward to putting on the Hawks' uniform

"It will be an even bigger challenge," Kneisley said. "I'm excited to play at a higher level."

Grace Academy's Rebecca Morgan, an All-Area First Team outside hitter, could make an immediate impact. Morgan averaged 4.80 kills per game for the Knights, third-best in the Tri-State area last season.

"I've already played with a lot of these girls in club ball," Morgan said. "Most of us know each other. Communication's a big thing."

"We did a camp last year at Grace, and that was the first time we saw her," Domenico said. "Then we saw her in club this year, and she's hitting tremendously."

Karli Powers, a defensive specialist who helped North Hagerstown reach the Maryland Class 2A state title match last season, is another player who will be counted on early.

"You need the pass to get the set to get the kill," Powers said. "I think I can fill that role."

The seventh signee is Julia Becker, who attended high school in Kodiak, Alaska. Her family recently moved to Charles Town, W.Va., and Hawks assistant Ty Hart discovered her playing in a Berkeley County recreational league.

"She's a diamond in the rough," Domenico said.

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