Potomac State volleyball headed to national tournament

Chapin Jewell
Special to the News Tribune
The Potomac State volleyball squad poses after earning their ticket to the NCJAA Division II national tournament in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

KEYSER - Potomac State volleyball squared off against Raritan Valley Community College in New Jersey Friday in the East District championship.  

It was lose and go home, win and advance. Advancing, however, didn’t just mean to the next round, but in this case, to the NJCAA Division II National Tournament in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

In what Coach Martha Ganoe describes as “a day of season highs for a lot of our players,” the Catamounts beat Raritan Valley three games to one (23-25, 25-13, 25-19, 25-14) to punch their ticket to Iowa.  If you’re going to have a season high, what better time than with the season on the line, not to mention a ticket to the national tournament?

“Alayzia Ward had another outstanding performance with a season high 24 kills and 15 digs.  Kylee McGuire also had a season high in both kills with 16 kills and digs with 20.  Chloe Puffinburger also had a season high with 58 assists and eight digs.  Lauren Whiteman led the way on defense with a season high 27 digs,” Ganoe explained.

The quality of play and contributions extended well beyond those season highs.  Taylor VanMeter added seven kills and 10 digs, and Macie Miller 15 kills.

“We had excellent play from our bench. Hannah Gordon had six digs in set two and Kennedy Koelker had five digs in set three.  Ashley Phillips did an excellent job utilizing her short serve to help disrupt the offense of Raritan. Caitlin Nine also contributed two aces late in the third to help increase our lead.  Nicola Ganoe and Brook Slaubaugh contributed two block assists apiece,” Ganoe offered.

It wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops as the day got started, with Raritan taking the first game 25-23.  Potomac State settled down, and with a strategy and lineup change from Ganoe, it was smooth sailing the rest of the way.  

According to Ganoe, “Nerves played a huge part in the first set loss. We were making mistakes that I had not seen since the beginning of the season. However, once the girls settled down it was full steam ahead. We were having difficulty at the net trying to stop their big hitter and balls were bouncing off our block making it difficult to defend. They were also abusing us down the line. I decided to make a change in the second set and put more offense, speed and ball control on the court.

“Hannah Gordon and Kennedy Koelker did an excellent job giving us the much-needed spark on defense and speed to get to the line on defense.  I moved Ganoe into the middle blocker position and put VanMeter on the right to help boost our offense. VanMeter did a nice job of contributing on offense and Ganoe made several net saves to help keep the ball alive giving us another opportunity to defend,” Ganoe explained.

For Ganoe, this season’s edition of Lady Catamounts’ volleyball is a collection of student-athletes who understand their roles, have bought in to what they are able to contribute, and have been absolute pleasure to work with.  As Ganoe points out, “It’s not always the ones with the big stat numbers on paper that make the most impact.”

“Ashley Phillips accepted what she needed to contribute yesterday. She went in yesterday for one rotation as a serving specialist. She was a huge factor in our win, allowing us to score in that rotation. Her serve generated free balls from the other team, creating an opportunity that allowed us to get the ball to our hitters so they could put the ball away,” Ganoe explained.

“Nicola (Ganoe) and Taylor (VanMeter) are often huge silent contributors every game with their ability to step in and make a good set when the setter digs or passes the ball. Brooke Slaubaugh and Nicola Ganoe are not huge offensive contributors, but they bring the much needed defense at the net,” Ganoe explained.

Potomac State is led by head coach Martha Ganoe and assistant coach Mary Slider.  As highlighted in their season preview, the team consists of 12 players, with 10 of those players hailing from the local area.  Six of the 12, in fact, are Frankfort High School graduates (Macie Miller, Chloe Puffinburger, Lauren Whiteman, Ashley Phillips, Taylor VanMeter, Kylee McGuire).

Nicola Ganoe played with many of the Frankfort kids growing up but would ultimately play her high school volleyball at Calvary Christian Academy. Alayzia Ward and Kennedy Koelker are Allegany High School graduates, while Hannah Gordon hails from Hampshire. Caitlyn Nine is a graduate of Trinity Christian High School in Morgantown, and Brooke Slaubaugh from Buffalo High School in Buffalo, West Virginia.

The Lady Catamounts head to the national tournament in Iowa with an overall match record of 14-1 and a 10-match win streak.  The tournament will be held from April 13-15 with the field and schedule yet to be determined.