By Katharine Morgan CONTRIBUTING WRITER
---- — Cooperstown has gotten used to volleyball success under Rich Jantzi, and it looks like CCS will prove themselves on the court again this year.
“We have the athletic ability, definitely, and we’re fast,” said Jantzi, who has coached CCS for 15 years. “We’re a strong hitting team, no doubt about it.
“We’re more experienced than last year, but we’re still a young team.”
Jantzi stresses the team effort, but is quick to point out Caroline Leonard, a sophomore, as someone to watch. “She’s my best player,” he says matter of factly. “She’s the most athletic, hits the ball hardest, and is the most intense.”
Watching Leonard jump serve, her grace, prowess and strength are apparent.
At an early Saturday morning practice, the Hawkeyes’ competitive attitude and hard work ethic demonstrated by both Coach Jantzi and his girls is immediately evident.
Jantzi’s hands on, correcting, demonstrating and encouraging. He takes a minute to talk about his team, but never stops instructing from the sidelines.
“We’re going to have a tough season this year. We changed divisions because of the merger between Mohawk and Illion schools, so we don’t really have experience playing some of these teams,” he said.
The team’s weakness this year: “They don’t like it when I say it, but its’ the ‘serve receive.’ We need to get better at that, and we lack a team leader right now.
“The good news is, we do have a very strong serving team this year,” he said.
Over the years, the team has become a volleyball program under Jantzi, working out hard in the off-season as well as during the varsity schedule. “(We’re) very dedicated to the program and work exceptionally well together,” he said.
Overall, Jantzi said he considers the team, “a good group, a lot of continuity here. They enjoy each other.” Most of the team attends Jantzi’s summer camps at the Clark, and they often get together for Tuesday night games in the off-season. In addition, they attended a camp at Buffalo State during the summer.
Co-captains Brooke Liner and Brianna Palmetier, second their coach’s assessment.
The two seniors, who are both “hitters,” talk of team dinners and sleepovers.
“There needs to be a lot of trust and communication amongst the players during a match” said Liner.
Palmetier adds, “We have to get better at calling the ball, and naming who we are setting up.”
Both players said that losing Katie Booan to graduation is tough. “She played four years,” Liner said, “so everyone knew her and loved her.”
Although it’s early,” Liner said, “from what I’ve seen this week, we should have a good season.”
Palmetier adds, “It’s a new division, so it’s hard to tell exactly how we’ll stack up, but we have most of the team back this year, so it looks good. Right now, we are just working out the kinks.”
In addition to Leonard and his captains, Jantzi name his setters, Katie Franck, and Kristin Ratliff and outside hitter McKenna, hitter Jennifer Snyder and libero Sylvia Johnson as key players.
Overall, there is a lot of athletic talent on the team. Ratliff is coming off a successful cross country season, finishing 14th in the state in Class C. Jantzi said Leonard is a sure thing for college level volleyball and added that Hage, can also play at the next level if she continues on her path.
But more than just a group of individuals, Jantzi is quick to add that the team as a whole is coming together really well.
“One of our best seasons was 08/09, but this season, we only lost four seniors, so this could be a great year,” he said.
Last season the team lost in the playoffs to top seed Tully. But this year, they have the potential to go further. The first game is against arch rival, Dolgeville, Dec. 18.
“I think we are in the conversation for the Division title, with Dolgeville being the biggest threat,” Jantzi said. “We defeated Little Falls twice last year and Frankfort once. We scrimmaged Herkimer, played well against them.
“Like I said, we’re a young team. The good news is, I already know my starters for next year,” he added.