High School Sports

State College’s Suzanne Horner, Christine Irwin earn All-State honors

The success of the State College girls’ volleyball team continues to roll on.

Fresh off a season that took the Lady Little Lions to the state quarterfinals, two team members have landed on the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association Class AAA All-State team.

In the list announced Tuesday, senior setter Suzanne Horner and junior outside hitter Christine Irwin were both named to the 50-member team.

State College has put at least one athlete on the PVCA All-State team in eight of the last nine seasons, with at least two girls on the list in seven of those seasons.

“State College has a great volleyball program,” Irwin said. “We have some great coaches and people to help us out. We learn from the best and it’s a really great community.”

Horner, a four-year starter, is on the list for the third time. The 5-foot-10 setter/opposite is bound for Mississippi State on scholarship.

Horner had to fill multiple roles for the Lady Little Lions this past season, working as a part-time setter and also as a right-side hitter. She finished the 2012 season with team-highs of 548 assists and 77 aces, and had 272 kills, 213 digs and 74 blocks. She also finished her career surpassing 2,000 assists, is on prepvolleyball.com’s Senior Aces list and is one of six finalists for the Gatorade state Player of the Year.

“I just like playing the game,” said Horner, who was told she will primarily be a setter with the Bulldogs. “Any way I can help, I just love it and I pour my heart into anything I’m doing on the court. I like contributing any way I can.”

Horner was on the all-state list with Taylor Leath and Emma Weakland last season and with her sister, Elizabeth, who is now playing at Pennsylvania, in 2010.

“Always it’s an honor and very humbling,” Horner said. “All the hard work I’ve put into it, and other people recognizing all the hard work and the player I’ve become, it’s a nice honor.”

Irwin, a 5-10 junior, is on the list for the first time after serving as the team’s top left-side hitter.

“It’s such an honor and I’m really happy about it,” Irwin said. “It’s been my goal since freshman year to work up to it. It’s really a feeling of accomplishment.”

Irwin led the Lady Little Lions with 314 kills and 227 digs and was second with 69 aces while also posting 38 blocks.

“I love the sport,” said Irwin, who is hoping to play in college. “My favorite part is coming together and winning the really close games, the matches, it’s a great feeling to play for your teammates.”

The pair helped a State College team go beyond the expectations in early September. The Lady Little Lion appeared to be destined for a huge season, with three returning all-state athletes who were all headed to Division I programs. But Leath, a junior who has committed to North Carolina, and Weakland, who has signed a National Letter of Intent for Winthrop, both suffered knee injuries and were lost for most or all the season.

Instead of expressing woe, the team reorganized its lineup, lost just once during its first season in the Mid-Penn Conference, posted a 19-3 dual match record overall, won the District 6 title and advanced to the PIAA quarterfinals before getting knocked out by North Allegheny.

“Nobody expected it from us, and we didn’t expect it,” Irwin said of the team’s success. “We knew we were going to put forth all the effort that we could, but we never realized we could get to the quarterfinals. It was a really cool season to experience.”

To see his players earn these honors and have the season they had also was gratifying to head coach Chad Weight.

“We knew we would have to rely a little bit more on Suzanne and Christine,” Weight said. “There are role players and all-state players, and the kids that played their roles, played their roles really well and our stars did what they needed to do. It was a combination of things.”

Also on the all-state list were Altoona outside hitter Hannah Moore and a pair of Parkland athletes who are committed to Penn State — 5-5 setter-defensive specialist Taylor Krause and 6-0 middle hitter Kelly Robertson. Both seniors plan to walk on with the Nittany Lions from their team that made it to the state finals.