Tempo will be key for NP-Liberty today
The pace and intensity that North Penn-Liberty — the District 4 Class AA champion and PIAA quarterfinalists — wants to play with is evident before the first serve of the match. Most teams line up and jog in a line to slap hands with their opponents before the first set. The Mounties all line up on the 10-foot line, and sprint to the net to meet their opponent. Every time, the starters look to see who got to the net first. They’re competitive and intense in everything they do.
“The run-up that the girls have started doing at the beginning of the match is common with New York teams. They saw teams doing this at the matches and tournaments we played in New York State and thought it was a good way to mix things up,” remarked North Penn-Liberty coach Jennifer Nawri on the unique start to the match the Mounties employ.
The tempo does not stop then. When the Mounties win a point, it seems like a mad dash to get the ball back to the server at the service line and get set for the ready for play whistle. They do not want to give opponents time to breathe when they are on a roll and that is something that has helped them in their biggest matches of the season. In the first of their two regular season matchups with District 4 runner-up Wellsboro, the Mounties broke up open a close second set after a close first set with a 10-0 scoring run that seemed to happen in the blink of an eye. Against Holy Redeemer, they would catch the Royals ruing missed opportunities from previous points and run off quick 3-0 and 4-0 runs. Like any good program in any sport, good habits do not just show up on match days. This is what they practice and preach.
“We talk speed of play often. When our momentum slows, I usually speak to my team leaders about getting the team up, talking more and moving more. If I notice girls at a standstill on court, I will encourage them to keep moving at all times. I also use our speed as an example for our JV players to aspire to. We also work on this at practice, reminding ourselves that this sets the tone for games,” Nawri said.
N.P.-Liberty will look to use that tempo against a potent Panther Valley team today at 1 p.m. in the PIAA Class AA quarterfinals at Shamokin. Panther Valley, the District 11 champions, come in with a record of 25-2, their only losses coming twice to Pottsville.
If Mountie setters Joanne McNamara and Julia Nawri continue to spread the ball around like they have all season, N.P.-Liberty will have a chance to go to the state semifinals. One never knows who will get the next set for the Mounties and that keeps opponents guessing. That being said, when a Mountie hitter gets hot — like Maddison Minyo did against Holy Redeemer in the first round — the setters know what to do. The connection between McNamara, a four-year starter with over 1500 assists in her career, and Minyo, who recorded her 750th kill on Tuesday, has been particularly deadly lately.
“I encourage them to keep the opponent guessing rather than focusing on just one hitter. They do this well, but also know that when you have a hitter who is on fire, you set her,” Jennifer Nawri said.
At the end of the day, this is a N.P.-Liberty team unfazed by the moment and they believe they can win.
“At this point in our season, these girls are working so well together. Ultimately, we just need to play our game, play with hype and excitement and keep our speed of play up through all sets,” said Nawri.