Experience may be the key to success this girls’ volleyball season at Princeton High School.
Coaches and players agree that veteran leadership will be a quality this fall.
The Little Tigers will have nine seniors on the squad after the team lost only three starters from the starting rotation from a season ago.
“Ideally we will be able to mix things up because we have nine seniors. We have a lot of returning varsity players who are equally strong hitters,” coach Patricia Manhart said. “So being able to spread that offense will be good. I did not have to many holes that I had to fill from people who were graduating last season.”
She said the biggest thing the team needs to build upon from last season is securing a higher seed, after from getting knocked out in the first round of NJSIAA Group 4 state tournament.
“We need to go into states with a better record and getting a higher seed will be important for us,” she said.
The Little Tigers are coming off a 2018 season that produced a 20-6 overall record and an 8-0 record in the Liberty Divison in Burlington County Scholastic League (BCSL) conference.
In the 2018 inaugural BCSL tournament, the Little Tigers were crowned champion after defeating Northern Burlington County Regional High School, 2-0.
In the first round of the 2018 NJSIAA Group 4 state tournament, Princeton fell to Cherokee High School, 2-0. Cherokee lost to North Hunterdon Regional High School in the second round of the tournament, 2-0.
Notable key returners are seniors Gillian Hauschild and Kim Cheng. Hauschild in 2018 led the team in kills with 182, while also compiling 97 service points and 57 aces.
Cheng who also boosts the offense produced 76 kills, 87 service points and 62 aces in 2018
“Gillian Hauschild gets the most amount of sets. Her being able to produce offensively is something that we rely on,” Manhart said. “A lot goes on Gillian’s back. Gillian also defensively takes on a lot as well.”
She said Cheng brings both defense and power.
“Kim (Cheng) is so powerful and she has a really great service percentage. She definitely brings the power when she plays,” Manhart explained.
A key newcomer to the team is senior libero Emily Dobler. Dobler in 2018 produced 65 service points, 48 aces and had a total of 38 kills.
“She did not play in that position last year so it is new to her. She was able to go into the position so naturally as if that was a position she was meant to play,” Manhart said. “Emily (Dobler) has so much speed. She is able to be quick and read on the court.”
The team will play in a 5-1 set this season, which is an offensive system where there are five hitters on the court and one setter running the offense at all times.
Manhart explained that other keys for success this season will be consistency and confidence.
“Everyone is trusting each other and I want to see that type of belief in themselves as individual. That will definitely make a difference when it comes to playing games.
Cheng reiterated what Manhart said about confidence being a key to this season.
“Having confidence and trusting your teammates is going to play an important role this season. Everyone on this team gets along really well and our skill levels for this year are significantly higher,” she said.
Offensively, Cheng said the team will need to read opponents and adjust in game to hit the best spots on the court.
Hauschild said on top of confidence team chemistry is a strength for this team in 2019.
“With nine seniors we have played with each other for sometime and know each other well,” she said. A lot of girls came back this year will much more confidence. I am so excited for this season.”
Both Hauschild and Cheng said they compliment each other on and off the court.
“I have not been on a club team or high school sports team without her. We really balance each other out with our personalities,” she said.
The Little Tigers are 1-0 to start the season having defeated Northern Burlington, 2-0.
Princeton will meet Hopewell Valley Central Regional High School on Sept. 9. First set to start at 5:15 p.m. at Hopewell Valley.