Two Tigers continuing volleyball careers
The NYAA program had been pushing to get a volleyball team at the high school level for six years before it finally happened in the fall of 2012.
When it finally did become a sport at Northwestern Lehigh High School three years ago, the interest grew so much that around 40 girls went out for roughly 20-25 varsity and junior varsity spots combined.
"Every year we would go to school board meetings and try to convince them," said Jenny Von Holt, who played two seasons for Northwestern. "And finally in my junior year there was enough interest."
Along with Von Holt, Abby Sanders was also a member of the Tigers' inaugural team in 2012. Both started playing volleyball in the fifth grade at that NYAA program, and now both are in the midst of college volleyball careers.
"It was an awesome experience especially because we had both played in the rec league at Northwestern since fifth grade," Sanders said. "To be a part of the first actual varsity team at Northwestern was an absolute amazing experience. It's something I'll never forget."
It was a chance to be a part of history as the first Northwestern girls volleyball team to take the court.
"Being on the very first team ever at Northwestern was an amazing feeling," Von Holt said. "You know that there is a clean slate and you're making history. That was our saying. It was a big step for us."
The Tigers qualified for the District 11 Tournament in both of their first two seasons. Sanders and Von Holt both went on to play the sport in college, despite coming from a high school program that didn't exist when they were in 10th grade.
Von Holt now wears navy and white as a member of the Penn State Berks team. Sanders just completed her second season at Wilkes University.
Even as a freshman, Von Holt got plenty of time on the court. Her 100 sets played was right among the team leaders.
"You're representing Penn State's name, so it was kind of intense for a bit there, but I think I transitioned very well," Von Holt said. "Actually the first time I touched a ball in a game on the Penn State court, I got a kill. That was pretty exciting."
In 100 sets, Von Holt recorded 141 kills, 43 digs, 30 blocks (third on team) and 20 assists for the Nittany Lions, who fell to Gallaudet Univeristy in the conference championship game.
"I thought I knew everything about volleyball going into this year, considering I played seven or eight years before," Van Holt said, "but I was very wrong. I learned everything this year. It's been amazing. I feel like I have improved tremendously as a player."
As a right-side hitter for Wilkes, Sanders built off a solid freshman season to rank sixth on the Colonels with 71 kills on the season. In 62 sets, she has tallied 79.5 points and 34 digs.
"I'm surprised at how much I have improved since my senior year [at Northwestern]," Sanders said. "I really hope I keep improving, and that my next two years are going to be as successful as my first two."
The Colonels finished 13-18 on the season (3-4 in the Freedom Conference) before falling in the semifinals round of the league tournament.
"I still love playing volleyball, and I absolutely love it here at Wilkes," Sanders said. "It's a small school, so it has the feel of Northwestern. We are a family here. It's an amazing experience, and they are some of the closest friends I have up here at school."