When the Pennsylvania College of Technology women's volleyball team opens its season Saturday at Luzerne County Community College, it will have had just two weeks of practice under its belt, and that wasn't with the full squad. Several players are expected to join this week once classes begin.
Coached by Bambi Hawkins, who is entering her 13th season, the squad is the first of six Penn College fall sports to get under way. The men's and women's soccer teams open on Sunday, Sept. 1, the golf team on Tuesday, Sept. 4, the cross-country team on Saturday, Sept. 8 and the tennis team on Tuesday, Sept. 11.
Key returnees for Hawkins include outside hitter Tara Powell, outside hitter Courtney Gernert, middle hitter Melissa Lake, outside hitter Kelly Hebert, and Caitlyn Curley, a setter and right-side hitter.
"Potentially, we will have a very powerful team. We have multiple hitters who are very effective and hitting harder than ever. Our challenge will be to get our setters up to speed and to have the passing accuracy to capitalize on the power of the hitting," Hawkins said.
A year ago the Wildcats went 20-13 overall. They finished second to PSU Fayette in the Penn State University Athletic Conference, where they posted a 16-2 record.
With one senior, one junior, four sophomores and three freshmen on the early-season roster, Hawkins said the squad will be "very young, but mostly experienced with the exception of the key position of setter."
"Hitting is the most obvious strength. The power and adaptability of our front line comes from multiple players, not just one or two," the coach continued.
"The most troublesome area is that we do not have a player with significant setting experience. However, we have two young ladies who have stepped into the role and are willingly learning while receiving great encouragement from a crew of hitters who are hungry for a great connection with the two setters," Hawkins said.
Looking to the season, Hawkins said, "I anticipate that with as quickly as this team has learned, and the effort they showed during pre-season, that they will be going to the PSUAC playoffs again this year.
"(The) United States Collegiate Athletic Association playoffs will depend on our ability to continue with the rapid learning curve in the setting position as well as ensuring that we refine our passing. We have some work to do, but I would not rule out the USCAA playoff possibility with the tenacity of this team.
"Last year's trip (to the USCAA) was a learning experience in that we now have a better idea of the impact that timing our travels has on our play. A team that is healthy, physically and academically, is essential as well. Coaching is also different at that tournament in the level of intensity, so (assistant) coach Erin McMahon and I will be sure to prepare for that as well," Hawkins added.
Saturday, Aug. 25 at Luzerne Community College, noon
Saturday, Sept. 1 host Lycoming College, 11 a.m.; host Baptist Bible College, 3 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 1 at Southern Virginia University, 3 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 5 host Alfred, N.Y., State, 5 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 1 host Baptist Bible College, 1 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 5 host Rosemont College, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 4 at PSU Leigh Valley, 11 a.m.
Saturday, Sept. 8 a PSU Scranton, 12:45 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 11 at PSU Hazleton, 3 p.m.