PUNXSUTAWNEY — Walking down the halls of Punxsutawney Area High School, you can hear the squeaking of shoes coming from the hardwood floor in the distance. The distinct noise, added to the sound "Let's go girls," can only mean one thing.
Volleyball season is here.
The encouraging words of second-year Head Coach Heather Good shows that the Lady Chucks mean business once again.
After the season the Lady Chucks had last year, expectations are very high.
After defeating Bradford Area High School in the District IX title game, Punxsy went on to lose in the first round of the playoffs.
When talking about the expectations for the upcoming season, Good couldn't help but flash a smile.
"Yeah, they are definitely high," Good said. "It's definitely going to be a big head-to-head thing with Bradford this year, for sure."
That's demanding a lot, but this group of girls can handle it. They are, after all, seasoned vets. Well, at least in high school terms.
"We have six seniors, so we have a lot of experience and leadership," Good said. "Their leadership is really going to take us that extra step."
And observing the girls in practice, you can see the leadership and camaraderie within the group.
When one girl goes down, the rest swarm over to help her up. If a girl missed a serve, you could see the slap of hands and hear the "It's okay, next time," coming from the other girls mouths. When the intra-squad scrimmage during practice was tied at 24, the sound of "Let's go girls" came out once again.
But this time, it was from the teammates, not from the coaching staff.
If there is one thing you can tell from a simple practice session, it's that these girls want it and are willing to do what it takes to get there.
"They have been working so hard. They've been putting in the extra time and effort that they need to come into the season," Good said. "I'm very excited for the team that we have."
The keyword being team. While Good didn't want to get into position battles, she did acknowledge that her lineup is still up in the air.
The girls know that, and they're OK with that.
Regardless of which girls work their way into the lineup, you can expect to see some underclassmen in there with the six seniors.
"From freshmen through juniors, there are really quite a few of them are going to make an impact at the varsity level. I'm excited," said a smiling Good. "I think we're going to have a lot of different age groups out there. It's going to be good."
It will be good, but with just four practices in, they aren't perfect yet.
With a trip to Slippery Rock coming up for the opening tournament over Labor Day weekend, and the home opener on Sept. 3, the girls still need some work.
After a missed serve by a player during practice, Good put her head down before saying, "Too many missed serves, ladies."
It wasn't just that player, but there were quite a few throughout the scrimmages.
Would you say that's the thing the team needs to work on the most, coach?
"No, I wouldn't say that. I think the most important aspect of our game would be defense," Good said. "We have some good defensive players, but we're not a tall team. Our defense is always really important to us."
The old adage is "defense wins championships," right?
But what about the offense? What does the team need to work on there?
"Our passing. Just that passing game to get the rally going," Good said. "The serves are definitely important, because without them, you don't get anywhere. Our passing game is vital to our success."
The team was smooth with its sets throughout practice, and once again, the teamwork and unselfishness showed.
It's a long season, and a long journey to get back to the District IX title game and the playoffs.
While Good admittedly said the Bradford game is the one she is looking forward to most, she said it's important not to overlook any of the schools.
"Yeah, it is, but we only play them once. However, we aren't overlooking anyone else on the schedule at all," Good said. "We don't play them until the beginning of October. We have the whole month of September before we actually go against them.
We have games then, and we aren't going to overlook anybody. We are going to take each game as it comes. On any given night, anything can happen with any team."
Spoken like a true coach and a true leader.
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree with this team.