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Penn College Women’s Volleyball Team Could Blossom Into Something Exciting

With only six returnees from a year ago, Pennsylvania College of Technology women’s volleyball coach Bambi Hawkins is unsure what to expect in her team’s opener at 7 tonight at Davis College.

Starters for Hawkins’ eighth edition will be outside hitter Courtney Barton, a sophomore from Liberty; outside-middle hitter Alyssa Covas, a sophomore from Pottsville; setter Michelle McNett, a sophomore from Canton; defensive specialist Jaclyn Sampson, a freshman from Liberty; outside hitter Angela Sweely, a sophomore from Mansfield; and middle hitter Karlee Shubert, a freshman from McSherrystown.

In years past, Penn College employed two setters, but, this season, McNett will handle the job alone. “She’s going to have to step up as a team leader because of her position. The setter basically runs the court,” Hawkins said.

The Lady Wildcats also are counting heavily on Libero Maria Bova, a senior from Bethlehem. “(We hope) Bova will continue her saga of playing defense for us. She’s done a phenomenal job over the past three years and I anticipate that to continue this year,” Hawkins said.

The top player off the bench is outside hitter Karla Neiman, a junior from New Oxford, with outside hitter Lindsey Hackenberg (sophomore/Lock Haven), defensive specialist Jeanette Gamble (freshman/Rome) and middle hitter Alexandra Davis (freshman/Smethport) rounding out the roster.

“We have a real strong core,” Hawkins said.

“I have a 4-foot-11 hitter, Jackie Sampson, who is just a dynamo on the court all the way around. I think she’s a little surprised that we want her to be a hitter, but she’s going to shock some people,” the coach continued.

A lack of height means that the Wildcats will have to rely on strong defense. “I can count on Maria Bova in the back row. I don’t expect her to cover the whole court, but she can certainly cover half of it. (And) Sampson is just as strong in the back row as she is in the front row,” Hawkins pointed out.

Penn College captured the conference championship three years ago and finished second in the Penn State University Athletic Conference each of the last two seasons. This year, it’s wait and see, the coach said.

“I don’t know what any of the other teams look like this year. (The level of competition) changes every year. We’ve got to see what’s out there and get an idea of how we’re going to have to play against them,” Hawkins said.

“I’m excited. I think any team we have at Penn College has the potential to get to that finals match,” Hawkins added. “I’d love to see them win it again, and I think that, with some refinement and some confidence for the freshmen and sophomores, they really could blossom into something that is exciting.”

(A complete roster and season schedule are available on the college’s Athletics Web site.)

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