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HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL: Penns Manor sweeps Marion Center

by By MIRZA ZUKIC, moz@indianagazette.net on September 20, 2013 10:35 AM

KENWOOD — Being undefeated two weeks into the regular season is nice, but coach Barb Thornton hopes it’s only the start of things to come for her Penns Manor Comets this season.

Coming off a year in which they captured the Heritage Conference and District 6 titles, the Comets entered this season with similarly high expectations.

For Thornton, winning matches is as important as improvement on a game-to-game basis, and the Comets’ coach was pleased with the growth she saw from her group in a 3-0 sweep of Marion Center in a Heritage Conference girls’ volleyball match Thursday night.

Penns Manor never trailed and won by scores of 25-11, 25-12, 25-14 to improve to 6-0 and 5-0 in the conference.

“My kids served a lot stronger tonight than we have so far this season,” Thornton said. “We played at Homer-Center (on Wednesday). We won in three, but they were three really tough games. We didn’t serve-receive well last night. We didn’t serve as strong last night as we did tonight.

“When we serve strong, we have a chance to put the other team on the defensive and that gives us a lot of free balls and balls that are easy that we can handle. That allows us to transition and get a lot of our hitters involved and take a lot of good shots.”

The Comets were fluid on offense, creating opportunities for outside hitters Sarah DaBella and Mary Roach all match long. They served well and serve-received better than in recent matches. They played a solid all-around match.

But Thornton knows there’s still room for improvement. And that’s OK.

“You’re building toward the end of the season,” she said. “We’re about halfway through the season now. I want to see my team get better and get stronger. I don’t want them to plateau right now and say, ‘OK, well we’ve gone 6-0 and that’s our goal.’ No, our goal is to be playing our best ball and be one of the top teams in the district at the end.”

Penns Manor raced to a 9-0 lead on its way to winning the opening game, 25-11, and never looked back against the young Stingers.

DaBella delivered half of her game-high 18 kills in the second game for the Comets.

Taylor Rainey added eight kills, while DaBella, Mary Roach and Heather Aikens had eight digs apiece on defense.

DaBella echoed her coach’s sentiment that while piling up wins during an undefeated start to the season is fun, the bigger goals are what seniors like herself and Roach are playing for.

“Us coming back from last year winning the Heritage, I think it gives us an extra confidence boost,” DaBella said. “I think we’re really striving to get that again, and that’s our goal. I think the big picture is in all of our minds.”

For Marion Center (0-5), just a win would be nice, but first-year coach Katie Proch is staying positive in the face of what appears to be a rebuilding year.

“We have a lot of young players, not a lot of upperclassmen,” she said. We’re getting that experience. It’s a long process, but we’ll get there.”

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