When it’s all said and done the Lady Blue Devils believe that the mix of ups and downs over the past few seasons have made them a more complete team going forward. A team capable of succeeding in the face of any challenge.
As the Kenmore West girls’ volleyball team heads into the 2016 season they are buoyed by the confidence of winning the Niagara Frontier League championship firs the first time since 2009.
The title win was the reward after several season of being in the lower half of the league as this young team tried to find its way and create its own identity.
“They are very humble,” coach Kelly Strong said. “They are very hard workers. They’ve worked very hard for everything they have gotten so far and I know that they’ll continue to push throughout this season. And my captains are really good examples of that.”
Leading the way for the Lady Blue Devils will be returning co-captains Erin Veronica, a senior libero, and junior Abby Borkowski who will set and play outside hitter.
The Blue Devils also return senior Allie Chimera (defensive specialist/libero) and sophomore setter Samantha Veronica, who has been on varsity since eighth grade.
While the Lady Blue Devils certainly return a solid core in those four, the biggest challenge will be filling the vacancy in leadership after five-year starter Dana Mancuso graduated.
“Last year, it was Dana’s final season,” Abby Borkowski said. “We felt like we could do it (last) year so we really just played our hearts out every single game. And I think that’s good because from now on its the same group basically. So we all know our expectations and our highs. So we’re just going to go out and do what we did last year.”
Not only one of the most skilled player to ever play in the program, Coach Strong said that Mancuso had that intangible quality that all great leaders have.
“Of course her physical attributes on the court,” Strong said. “But a lot of people don’t know she had that spark on the court. That fire in her that really got this team fired up. I’m looking to see who’s gonna step up and take that role.”
Veronica and Borkowski know that as the captains and veteran leaders it falls on their shoulders to step up and be that type of heart and soul leader that Mancuso was for the team.
“Now I realize her position (last year) with me being a senior this year, I really have to step up,” Erin Veronica said, “Dana was always the oldest and she was always the best player.”
The plan has Borkowski moving more to outside hitter while Samantha Veronica assumes even more of the setting duty.
In terms of execution on the court junior Sydney McIntosh (middle hitter) and senior Alyssa Battaglia (OH) look ready to step in and play a bigger role.
“Alyssa is looking great so far in the preseason,” Strong said. “She’s aggressive.”
Strong believes team defense and ball control will be key strengths in 2016.
Seniors Erin Mitchell, Giovanna Aquilina and Olivia Madore all return.
Kaylee Brown, Sabrina Katus, Kiana Marshall and Megan Stuff complete the Ken-West line up.
The Lady Blue Devils open the season at home against Lockport on Sept.2, 6pm start. The additional of CSAT to the now nine team Niagara Frontier League has led to an unbalanced schedule. Meaning the Blue Devils will only face long time rival North Tonawanda once this season. At home on Sept.30.
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