When Kapaun Mount Carmel setter Austyn Ames discusses the skills of fellow junior Sydney Kuhn, Ames doesn’t state the obvious — the powerful swing, the athleticism, the blocking ability or her knack of predicting where an opponent will hit the ball.
It’s Kuhn’s passing that she praises.
“She’s a really, really good defensive player,” Ames said. “She can read the hitters on the other team like no one else can. It’s great to have her as a back-row player.”
Kuhn is not alone in her versatility. Kapaun is loaded with talented players.
“All the players have so much experience, they have volleyball knowledge,” said Kuhn, a middle who has received several Division I offers and hopes to make an oral commitment later this year.
With such a strong, athletic group, of course the players have talked about contending for a Class 5A title. Kapaun advanced to the 5A tournament in 2011, but didn’t make it out of pool play.
Coach Terri Hessman said there’s been no formal team discussion about goals, though.
“Our biggest thing is to work the hardest that we can, pushing ourselves every day and getting better every day and being really competitive in practice,” Hessman said.
Hessman also hasn’t worked on game lineups, and practices are usually focused on 6-on-6 drills.
“A lot of years we have to stop drills and condition and do things because things can drag,” Hessman said. “We don’t have to stop to condition. They sprint everywhere they go. They’re fighting for position. I hope they keep that up all season long.”
They plan to. At least according to senior Kate Madsen.
“We need to improve on finishing out the season as strong as we can,” said Madsen, a right-side hitter who supplies her teams with inspirational quotes. “We beat Carroll early, and that was one of the most exciting things we could have done, but then we dropped a match to Heights and that was very disappointing.”
Ames and junior Wesley Crowdus have settled in well as Kapaun’s setters. Ames missed all of 2011 with an anterior crucial ligament tear, while Crowdus was moved up from junior varsity.
Not only do they have soft hands, they have the ability to get the ball where the Crusaders’ hitters can do the most damage.
Kuhn is a force in the middle as a blocker and hitter, but outsides Audrey Grant and Gabby Torline are just as fierce.
“I feel they’re just tremendous,” Ames said. “I can be in a tough situation, throw them up the ball and they always do something with it. They can just put the ball away.”
It helps that Kapaun has height. Kuhn is 6-foot-2, Grant 6-1, while Hannah Bongers and Leah Dionisi are 5-10. Torline and Crowdus are 5-9.
But the hitters have more than just height and the ability to hit hard.
“I see maturity, that they’re seeing the court and not just hammering it all the time,” Hessman said. “You want every tool in the bag.”