There will be some new teams on the 2020 schedule for Steven Daniels and the Bradford volleyball team, presenting a unique opportunity for the Lady Owls.
Bradford opted into the Seneca Highlands Intermediate Unit 9 “bubble” last month, and as such, is only facing teams from four counties: McKean, Elk, Cameron and Potter.
With that decision, the Lady Owls won’t be facing their typical league rivals, DuBois and Punxsutawney, and instead will fill much of their schedule with teams from Elk County as well as some matchups with North Tier League teams.
It’s a vast change from a normal year, but it’s one Daniels is eager for as the Lady Owls open their season tonight at Ridgway at 7 o’clock.
“We still get Kane, and we still get all the St. Marys teams, but we’re throwing in (NTL teams such as) Galeton and Smethport this year. The North Tier teams are a different breed than what we’re used to, and I’m excited to see what our program does against other schools we really haven’t played before.”
Despite the changes to the schedule, Daniels is still maintaining strong expectations for the program in his third year as head coach. The Lady Owls reached the District 9 finals for the second consecutive time last season.
“A lot of people say you measure successes in wins and losses, and I’d be a fool if I said we didn’t,” Daniels said.
But with the new schedule and with the possibility that there won’t be a District 9 postseason this year, Daniels is just as focused on his players making on-court progress regardless of scores.
“At the same time, I’m looking at how we measure up and more along the lines of ‘how did our offense work against this type of defense and how did our serve receive do?’ We’re going to be doing a lot of things this year.”
The successes of the team begin with finding replacements for last year’s seniors: Erica Marshall, Sarie Yohe, Laney Kahle and Lindsey Wind. Daniels acknowledged that group was a “strong” one and that “they were really influential in getting us to a District championship (appearance).”
But, he was quick to add, the up-and-comers on this year’s roster are a capable bunch, and the team has some upperclassmen to lean on still.
This year’s roster features three seniors: middle hitter Alex Asp, libero Leah Faulkner and Maddie Hartman. Asp and Faulkner will factor into the starting rotation, Daniels says, while Hartman will see her fair share of time on the court.
Three sophomores will take the court in starting roles this year. Emily Shields will take over as the team’s setter, while Emma Swanson will play at outside hitter and Lydia Sarnoski will start as a middle hitter.
Daniels also described a “great core” of juniors that includes Mikey Langeniese, Jessica Fox, Alexis Hardy and Alix Ordiway. Ordiway will be the team’s No. 1 outside hitter.
Most of that core earned valuable experiences during the 2019 season, particularly during the postseason that saw the Lady Owls come back from two sets down to top Punxsutawney on the road in the semifinals, 3-2.
“I think it was a good experience for everybody, but especially for the younger girls,” Daniels said. “We learned that we can play with teams like DuBois and Punxsutawney. It’s just what are we willing to do so that instead of just playing with them, we actually beat them and actually challenge them?”
He concluded, “We have all the pieces, so now we just have to glue them together the best we can this year.”
The remaining schedule is as follows:
17 — Johnsonburg, 7 p.m.
23 — Galeton, 7 p.m.
24 — St. Marys, 7 p.m.
29 — at Kane, 7 p.m.
5 — Smethport, 7 p.m.
6 — at Coudersport, 7 p.m.
8 — Elk County Catholic, 7 p.m.
13 — Kane, 7 p.m.
15 — Ridgway, 7 p.m.
19 — Northern Potter, 7 p.m.
20 — at Johnsonburg, 7 p.m.
22 — at Elk County Catholic, 7 p.m.
27 — at St. Marys, 7 p.m.