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Hawks' lesson plan leads back to nationals

November 14, 2011|By DAN KAUFFMAN | kauffman@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — Ann Reynolds’ first year as Hagerstown Community College’s head volleyball coach has been a learning experience — for herself, her assistants and her players.

But as they usually seem to do come November, the Hawks once again passed the Region XX test, winning the region title for the ninth straight year to earn one of 16 berths to the NJCAA Division II national tournament.

HCC (27-7) started its season by losing all five of its matches at the Owens Express Classic at Owens Community College in Toledo, Ohio — the site of this year’s national tournament, which begins Thursday and concludes Saturday.

“We learned a lot that trip, and it was a learning experience for us as coaches, too,” Reynolds said. “We’ve just come a long way. ... It showed us our weaknesses defensively. We just had to get a lot quicker.”

HCC enters nationals as the 14th seed and will face third-seed Iowa Lakes Community College (31-8) in the first round Thursday at 9 a.m. The road to the national title is single elimination, with consolation matches played to determine other places.

“They’re looking forward to it. They’ve worked really hard this season, so they’re ready,” Reynolds said.

The Hawks lost just two matches after that opening tournament. One came against region rival Potomac State — a 3-1 setback in mid-September — but HCC got revenge with a hard-earned five-game victory in the Region XX final, rallying from 2-1 down.

“The first Potomac State match, we didn’t make the adjustments that we made in the second match,” Reynolds said. “We knew where we had to place the ball offensively, and we knew where their hitters liked to hit, so we made adjustments with our defense. ... Our girls all did their jobs and did them well.

“They were super excited. We played well enough to win one of the first three games, but they took off the last two games and played with confidence. They worked so hard and they deserved it.”

The Hawks have found success with a team-oriented approach, with all nine players on the roster making contributions.

Offensive, freshman Paige Kitchen (Williamsport) directs the attack and averages 9.37 assists per game. Sophomores Emmalyn Stahl (South Hagerstown, 2.92 kills), Cortney Silvis (Boonsboro, 2.58 kills) and Brittany Skrutski (1.95 kills) and freshman Elise Manning (Catoctin, 2.27 kills) all will have opportunities to hit.

“We’re lucky because our outsides hit different shots, and our middles do, too,” Reynolds said. “They can hit a lot of different shots, and it works.”

Everyone pitches in defensively. Four girls average more than three digs per game — Stahl (3.46 digs), Silvis (3.45 digs, 0.89 blocks), sophomore Dominique Quesada (Thomas Johnson, 3.41 digs) and freshman Danielle Beaver (Smithsburg, 3.25 digs) — and Kitchen (2.47 digs) and freshmen Victoria Broadwater (Grace Academy, 2.94 digs) and Dani Hudson (Smithsburg, 1.93 digs) get in the act. Skrutski averages 0.61 blocks up front.

“Our libero Dominique has the back line and is solid back there, but we have to be firing on all cylinders with everyone because if one person falters, it all falls apart,” Reynolds said.

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