Freshman Quinn Williams is so much smaller than his lanky State High teammates, his presence on the court prompted two fans in the third row of the bleachers to worriedly contemplate decapitation should a particularly aggressive spike come his way.
The Little Lions, without five starters due to injury and illness, fell in three sets to a very athletic Chambersburg squad, but it wasn’t for lack of effort from Williams and fellow freshman Jeremy Bullock, both thrown into starting roles on Thursday night.
“There are a few different reasons why we’re sitting these guys,” said head coach Kim-Li Kimel. “Injuries is a big part of it, you know. We have kids struggling right now to make it through a week present, available, healthy and it’s been tough. To top it all off, we were missing our starting libero tonight, he couldn’t even get to the game because he has that flu bug that’s going around.”
Enter Williams, who proved that those worried fans didn’t have to fret about staying intact against the Trojans’ heavy swingers.
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While the 5-foot-4 libero appeared a little apprehensive in the team’s first set, a 25-8 loss, he stepped up with crucial digs and consistent serves and defense in the second (a 25-21 loss) and third (a 25-15 loss).
“(I like volleyball because) it’s different from other sports,” he said. “You don’t have to be a real big bulky kid, like in football or something, like everybody has the potential to be good in this sport. It’s a level playing field.”
It’s his fourth start this season, and he said he’s feeling more confident and that his teammates have really embraced him in a larger leadership role as the season has progressed. He likes the game because it’s fast, he said, but despite being so young he’s now slowed it down enough to be able to break it down and improve his own technique.
“I’ve just been watching these guys for awhile,” he said, motioning to his older teammates as they took down the nets after the game. “I just try to do what they do and just not let it get to my head, stay confident.”
Kimel said she felt comfortable putting Williams into the role, because he’s a cerebral potential Division I talent who needs to grow into his large hands and feet.
“I think right now, top to bottom on our team he’s the second-best passer, and that’s varsity and junior varsity (included),” she said. “Where he’s lagging slightly is just experience and confidence and you know, he could still be growing. … The more contacts we can get him now, the better he’s going to be later for us. Truly an investment player for us.”
Despite Williams’ consistent play, State College’s lineup — which had three freshmen in the rotation and started two sophomores — was just flat-out outmatched by the taller, hard-hitting Chambersburg squad.
“It had to have been hard on them, you know, to come out here and know they were going to face a well-coached, challenging matchup,” said Kimel. “It’s Teacher Appreciation night. I’m sure they wanted to play very well.”
Kimel urged her players to become more aggressive in the second set, a much tighter defensive showing that forced Chambersburg into some mental mistakes to keep the score close.
“Before we went out there, we told them we wanted them to make aggressive mistakes,” she said. “They’re gonna make mistakes! We just put this lineup together yesterday, they’re not themselves and they’re not at their strongest. … I kept trying to say for everyone to hear, like if there was a hitting error, ‘That’s OK, if he keeps setting, you keep swinging.’
“We needed to stay aggressive. I think that helped because it forced the other team to have to play. Even if we won those points because they made an unforced error, it stretched the play. Doing that, we gave ourselves a better opportunity to stay in the game.”
State College (2-5), which entered the night tied for third and a game behind co-leader Chambersburg in the Mid Penn Conference’s Commonwealth Division standings, will host the State College Invitational on Saturday.