Potomac State volleyball has a roster full of local flavor

Mineral Daily News-Tribune
The Potomac State volleyball squad seen gathered in action against Penn Highlands Friday.  Potomac State swept the visitors six games to zero, winning both matches.
Frankfort grads Chloe Puffinburger (left) and Kylee McGuire (right) look towards the ball in action against Penn Highlands on Friday.

By Chapin Jewell

Tribune Correspondent

KEYSER - On Friday, Feb. 26, the Potomac State Lady Catamounts opened their volleyball season at home against Penn Highlands Community College of Johnstown, Pennsylvania.  The Lady Cats made quick work of the visitors, dispatching the Black Bears in both of the scheduled matches, winning each three games to zero.

For those in attendance, and attendance is extremely limited, there were familiar faces taking the floor for Potomac State, and not just the returning five sophomores. A quick glance of the roster and in person on the court shows that 10 of the Lady Cats’ 12 players are local products, with six of the 12 hailing from one school, Frankfort High School.

On the 12-person roster, two are from out of the area, Caitlyn Nine from Trinity Christian in Morgantown, and Brooke Slaubaugh of Buffalo High School in Buffalo, West Virginia.  Hannah Gordon hails from Hampshire, Alayzia Ward and Kennedy Koelker are from Allegany, and Nicola Ganoe is from Calvary Christian Academy.  What remains are all Frankfort graduates and includes Lauren Whiteman, Kylee McGuire, Macie Miller, Ashley Phillips, Chloe Puffinburger and Taylor VanMeter.

That’s what you call a roster full of local flavor, with the out of area girls meshing extremely well with the local bunch to form a cohesive, promising unit.

“There are five freshman from Frankfort, and Lauren Whiteman the sophomore makes six from Frankfort. And really, at one time in middle school, Nicola Ganoe was also in this group, and so now, it’s like they are all back together,” Potomac State head coach Martha Ganoe declared. “When Nicola went to Calvary, she didn’t get to play with them in high school, but their friendships always stayed together. Chloe and Nicola are neighbors and have known each other forever.”

For the six former Frankfort Falcons, a strong foundation in volleyball and playing the sport the right way was laid by Coach Brooke Alkire-Higson.

According to Ganoe, “You know, Brooke has done a good job with these kids. She really had a good group of kids, and she’s given them the foundation for the game. Now, my job is to build on that and make these kids better, so that’s my goal.”

“This group of kids they get along great. They are all interacting well. I’m starting to see the kids really getting closer, especially now that we have started to travel they spend a lot of time together. Even the kids that aren’t from the area, they’re all just really mixing well. They’re a great group of kids really,” Ganoe explained.

Ganoe had the following to say about each of her players:

Hannah Gordon (sophomore, Capon Bridge, Hampshire)

“The biggest asset that Hannah brings to our team is her high energy and her ability to talk to her teammates and calm them down if they are stressed out. She’s great at practice. She probably would have been one of our captains if she had started school this fall but she started off late. She is a second-year player who did a great job and that brings energy and enthusiasm to the program and we’re happy to have her.”

Caitlyn Nine (sophomore, Morgantown, Trinity Christian)

“Caitlyn is a good utility player and is one of the kids that goes the hardest on the court for me, always giving 100 percent in all that she does.  That is her biggest contribution, her hard work and hussle.  She’s willing to get on the floor and dig up the ball and is a great defender for me. We are very strong defensively, we have a lot of great defenders.”

Brooke Slaubaugh (sophomore, Buffalo WV, Buffalo)

“Brooke is a positive kid and a hard worker. She’s a great defender that leads our team in blocks, she’s a great net defender with a lot of heads-up net play. She is quick to find the open hole, but has been injured and is working her way back into the lineup. She went in the other day and immediately blocked a ball and dipped it into an open hole. She has made tons of improvement, her net defense and blocking at the net is the biggest asset she brings to our team.”

Alayzia Ward (sophomore, Cumberland, Allegany)

“Alayzia is our big, heavy hitter, she hits a heavy ball. Last year she led our region in kills per game, so she’s done it before and no doubt will continue to do the same this year.  She’s just a strong offensive player and plays a key position for us. Alayzia has a very high kill percentage on our team and will usually lead our team offensively. She’s also a good server.”

Lauren Whiteman (sophomore, Ridgeley, Frankfort)

“Lauren stepped into our program as a hitter and defender from Frankfort. She stepped in as a setter last year, and she’s a phenomenal athlete who did a great job with it. She is still learning the position, but she is a very strong defensive player that really sees the court. She does a good job of leading our team, controlling our team. She’s very competitive, hates to lose, and is the kind of player every coach wants on their team.

Nicola Ganoe (freshman, Fort Ashby, Calvary Christian Academy)

“Nicola started this semester as her first semester, she wasn’t with us in the fall. She’s still coming into her game. She’s a strong, strong blocker, just like Brooke, she does a nice job for us at the net. She also has great hands, I can count on her if I need somebody to set the ball or make some heads up defensive plays to keep the ball alive. Nicola does a good job at setting the ball and not causing an error. That brings another aspect of the game to us.”

Kennedy Koelker (freshman, Cumberland, Allegany)

“Kennedy’s biggest asset is her serve. She’s got a very powerful serve and is a very strong scorer for us. I can count on putting her in the game for anyone that is struggling to serve and I know that I’m going to get a good serve out of her. She’s also a nice defender, I think I have six of the 12 that are defenders and she’s one of those defenders that does a great job.”

Kylee McGuire (freshman, Ridgeley, Frankfort)

“Kylee has been a big surprise, probably the biggest surprise on the team. She has really taken over the outside hitter role and has really grown leaps and bounds since she has started, especially in this second semester with her offense. She is really powering the ball and is our second highest kill getter behind Alayzia. Kylee is also working on a jump serve, a jump topspin serve, and she is getting that down and once that gets totally in control it’s going to bring us a lot of points. She’s doing a nice job in the back row.”

Macie Miller (freshman, Ridgeley, Frankfort)

“Macie is a kid that when she hits the ball and really gets ahold of it, you’re like, ‘wow, that was an amazing hit.” She has some big ups. She catches 9’5”, she hits a really fast ball, she’s very fast, she’s very quick, she’s very powerful. She also has a great serve, you saw that the other night as she rolled off a bunch of serves for us. She’s another kid that’s been a big surprise and it’s been fun watching her grow.”

Ashley Phillips (freshman, Ridgeley, Frankfort)

“Ashley is a great defender, a good passer, a good server too. She was a libero at Frankfort and she’s a contender for that position here as well. I’m anxious to get her back, we needed her on Saturday, we need that depth. Ashley brings that solid defense and solid passing for us as well. We work hard on serving, including short serves, balls that barely clear the net. Ashley has bought into that and is probably one of the people on the team that is able to do that best.”

Chloe Puffinburger (freshman, Fort Ashby, Frankfort)

“Chloe is a lot like Lauren, she brings a lot of volleyball knowledge as she has played for a long time. She’s just a strong, all-around player, I can rely on her a lot. She’s an excellent setter and I have tooled with the idea of using her as a setter and I have and I do. But, right now, I’m using her as our libero. She’s a strong server as well that is willing to play any position that I ask her to play.”

Taylor VanMeter (freshman, Keyser, Frankfort)

“Taylor’s a surprise for me, she played a middle last year for Frankfort, and right now I have her playing on the right side as an outside hitter, and she is a very strong outside hitter. She does a nice job, against Penn Highlands in our game she averaged nine kills. She did a very good job. Also, Taylor is a great serve receiver and that’s been a surprise to me. Taylor is still learning the game and as she continues to learn I look for her to really improve and bring a lot of good things to the program offensively.”

Though the season has really just begun, Ganoe likes what she’s seen of the 12 players she’s assembled on the roster.  There is talent and just as important, a knowledge of the game the girls’ possess.

“I think one of the biggest assets to this team right now is their volleyball IQ and their volleyball ability. Even though they have lots of room for improvement as everybody does in everything they do, the depth of the team is tremendous. If someone is not performing well I can put someone else in. It’s nice to have that, I haven’t had that very often at Potomac State, and so it’s really exciting to see,” Ganoe explains.

In addition to the talent and volleyball IQ, the meshing of the 12 as a cohesive unit will pay big dividends.  In many ways, especially with the local girls, this meshing began long ago.

According to Ganoe, “With volleyball in this area. Many of these girls played travel ball and so even if they are from a different local school, many of them have played together. They are so accustomed to playing each other around here, or playing with each other or attending camps. There is a bit of a connection even before they come here. I’m looking for big things and am excited to see what they can do now and down the road.”