Volleyball team has high hopes
The Northwestern girls’ volleyball team was a game away from qualifying for districts last season. Instead, Saucon Valley beat out the Lady Tigers and earned the No. 7 seed in the Class 3A tournament.
Head coach Lexy Ashburne is hoping the Lady Tigers (7-11 overall, 4-6 in Colonial League in 2018) get another chance at districts in 2019.
“My goal for the team this season is for them to have the opportunity to compete in another district qualifying game,” Ashburne said. “This season I am really focused on accountability. I want my players to be accountable toward each other when they play.”
Northwestern will have to do so without five graduates from last year’s team, led by Colonial League Second-Team All-Star middle hitter Shante Duminie. Duminie (who recorded 68 kills, 29 blocks and 20 digs) is now playing collegiate volleyball at Penn State Berks.
A number of other key pieces are also gone. Outside hitter Jovina Fager (52 digs and 52 kills) will also be missed at the net. Setter Ashley Bennicoff (104 assists and 46 digs), libero Grace Shuhay and defensive specialist Erin Vance must also be replaced.
“It will take time for the current seniors to adjust to losing such a strong senior class,” Ashburne said. “This year we have five new girls on varsity. These juniors are adjusting to the shift in intensity from JV to varsity.”
One of the key pieces in replacing the hitting production of Duminie and Fager will be rising-senior Sam McGinley, who recorded 57 kills, 17 blocks and 14 digs last season.
“This year’s team is very strong offensively,” Ashburne said. “We have a lot of strong hitters and aggressive servers. They are also in the best shape of any recent teams due to summer conditioning practices.
“[McGinley] is leading the team with her positive attitude and determination. Seniors Chloe Grim (defensive specialist) and Kylie Wade (defensive specialist, right side hitter) have really developed their skills over the offseason. I expect them to thrive this season.”
There are also a number of newcomers coming up from JV that will round out the varsity team’s depth this fall. One of those is Brynn Buschta, who will take over the setting role for Bennicoff.
“She is moving up from JV and taking over as my starting setter,” Ashburne said. “Her form and athleticism are exceptional. I am thrilled to see her in this role.
“Junior Ella Carson is new to the varsity team this year. She has impressed me during preseason with her defensive skills. She picks up balls all over the court.”
Southern Lehigh and Notre Dame (Green Pond) are expected to be the Colonial League’s top teams again. The Spartans were 10-0 in the Colonial League last fall, won the conference championship, and earned the No. 1 seed in the Class 3A tournament. Notre Dame finished 8-2.
Northwestern opens its schedule next Wednesday at Tamaqua. Game time is set for 6:30 p.m.