Entering his fourth season as Hopewell Valley Central High School’s girls’ volleyball coach, Dan Williams just wants his Bulldogs to improve.
For a team that went 6-22 last fall, it’s a reasonable goal, especially with four starters and five varsity players back for 2019.
They are a committed group that is developing steadily, and both the commitment and the development are encouraging signs.
Hopewell Valley will open its 2019 regular season with a Sept. 7 road game at Moorestown High School.
“It’s looking promising,” Williams said.
Most of Hopewell Valley’s returning players play the most important positions in volleyball, the two at the net: Outside hitter and middle blocker.
Hae-won Kim is a middle blocker who started last season as an outside hitter. But during the season, Williams recognized that Kim had the blocking ability to match her spiking ability, and he moved her to the middle, a more defensive position.
Kim can transition between offense and defense on a dime, and her presence has solidified the center of Hopewell Valley’s front line. Williams expects her to thrive in 2019.
“I think she’ll keep pushing herself to become even more well rounded in that position,” Williams said.
Next to Kim, Hopewell Valley will start another returning middle blocker in Kelly Cane. Cane was a first year varsity player last year, and her play was off and on. But when she was on, Williams said, she was really on.
And even when she wasn’t playing well, Cane always picked up her teammates. In 2019, Williams wants her to develop the consistency to become a confident, aggressive player all the time.
“She’s a developing middle blocker,” Williams said. “But she’s passionate about getting better.”
Outside of the middle blockers, Hopewell Valley returns two players with varsity experience.
Sofie Raggins started as a freshman last year and showed dynamic potential. She earned the Bulldogs a lot of points with aggressive spikes. She also showed a propensity to cover a lot of ground at the net.
Haleigh Abey is a senior who has never started before, but she looks ready for her chance to start. With three experienced players next to her, Abey will also be able to play without much pressure.
“I’m expecting Sofie to play a positive role and to help move the program in a positive direction,” Williams said. “And Haleigh continues to push her personal limit.”
If Hopewell Valley improves in 2019, it will start at the net. But the Bulldogs also have some passing talent in the back.
Libero Anastasia Sotos is a returning starter who can read plays, track down the ball and direct it back toward a teammate. Setter Corrinna Weyhrich played the same role for Hopewell Valley’s junior varsity team the past two years, and thrived in it.
“Corrinna’s JV experience will make the transition to varsity easier,” Williams said. “But more varsity repetitions and confidence will help her a lot.”
Williams feels the same way about his team as a whole. By the end of 2019, he wants his Bulldogs to be competing with the best teams on their schedule, like Hunterdon Central Regional High School and Hillsborough High School.
“We want to continue to grow the program in a positive direction,” Williams said.