Cardinal’s coaching staff got a makeover during the offseason but head coach Karisca Chambers won’t have to spend much time getting to know her new assistant coaches.
Joining the Huskies this season are Cassy Chambers and Kate Hess.
“I bring two new coaches to Cardinal, but they aren’t so new to me,” Karisca Chambers said. “My sister Cassy Chambers is the JV A coach and Kate Hess is the JV B coach. The two of them come from Newbury as well. They were both incredible athletes at Newbury. Cassy and Kate are very knowledgeable about the sport and we get along well as a coaching staff because we have the same coaching philosophies and goals for the program. It’s going to be so fun and rewarding to coach alongside the two of them.”
Karisca Chambers is excited to finally have the chance to team up with her younger sister and she also has a tie to Hess as she was an assistant coach at Newbury during Hess’ senior season.
“In a way, this has come full circle,” Chambers said. “I know the two of them are going to be great assets to the program even if they may seem inexperienced and young to the coaching world. Their drive and commitment to this program is evident and I’m very lucky to have them on my staff.”
Chambers and the Huskies also are fortunate to have a solid core of seniors and juniors returning in 2018.
Seniors Camille Cummins, Kaylee Klepper, Faith Peters and Ashley Gubanyar are in their fourth season playing for Chambers, so they have the experience to lead the Huskies back to the district tournament and beyond.
“I am extremely excited for this season,” Chambers said. “These seniors were my freshmen when I first took over at Cardinal. We have exceptional leadership this year as well as talent and I know we will have a successful season. Of course, we are striving for the league championship. That’s always one of our goals. This season, however, the girls are serious about making it out of districts. This hasn’t happened at Cardinal since 1990, I believe. That was the year I was born, so I think it’s about time.”
Each of the four seniors is expected to play major roles for the Huskies.
Cummins comes into the season as one of the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division’s top blockers.
“Cici is in the best shape this season,” Chambers said. “She pushed herself in the offseason and improved her speed and vertical. Cici is also one of our captains, rightfully so. She’s coachable and she is also a positive voice out on that court. Blocking was always her strong suit and she will continue to help shut down the other teams’ hard hitters. I’m excited to see her block the other team’s but to also excel as one of our outside hitters.”
Klepper is a four-year varsity player who is as devastating at the net as she is on the service line. She led the team in aces and kills last season.
“She keeps getting better and better each year,” Chambers said. “Kaylee has always been an aggressive hitter and she has been very consistent in the preseason. We want to run a quicker offense this year and she is a smart hitter.”
Peters is entering her third season on the varsity squad and is one of the most consistent blockers on the team.
“She’s really quick and does a nice job of cleaning up some of the play close to the net,” Chambers said. “She’s been working on her swing in the offseason and preseason and it’s more aggressive as well as consistent. Faith is a great natural leader and helps hold this team together.”
Gubanyar played libero last fall and will again see time at the position this year.
“She’s quicker and more confident this season, which allows her to get to more balls,” Chambers said. “She is our most consistent serve-receive passer. Serve-receive isn’t an easy task and Ashley does it fluidly.”
Juniors Andrea Mack and Taylor Soltis are expected to play major roles as well.
“This is Andrea’s first year as a full-time varsity player. She has also been working hard in the offseason. Her ability to press over the net and seal the block helps our defense tremendously. Andrea’s swing is coming along and she isn’t afraid to attack.I expect big things from her this season,” Chambers said. “Taylor is new to the Cardinal Huskies program. I am so impressed with Taylor. She can pass, set and serve extremely well. It’s so nice to have a defensive specialist who can also set because if my setter is taken out of the play Taylor can step in and set our hitters. It’s like she has been on our team from the beginning because she jells so well with our program and team. Taylor works hard and we are very lucky to have her.”
Three underclassmen have positioned themselves to contribute to the team this fall.
Sophomore Alaina Strever returns to the varsity squad and sophomore Jessie Proch is moving up from the JV squad. Both have the talent to compete at the varsity level.
“Jess played middle last year on JV but I knew she would eventually work her way into the varsity lineup. She is so peppy and full of energy and I know she will work as hard as she can on the right side to be an offensive threat as well as a strong blocker,” Chambers said. “Alaina is the hardest working back row player I know. She wants the ball hit at her hard. She loves the challenge and that’s what makes her so good. Alaina is extremely good at reading a hitter and picking up balls that you think she can’t get to. Alaina is also fighting for the libero spot. Whichever position she plays, I know she will give it her all and she won’t stop until she gets to every ball.”
Freshman Haley Domen quickly impressed Chambers and earned her varsity stripes.
“Haley is the most determined player,” Chambers said. “Even in practice, she works the hardest. The ball could be shanked across the room and she will chase it down and lay out for it. It’s so exciting to see that drive in someone who is so young. I knew with graduating my setter that I needed a new one. I started having Haley set in the offseason and she instantly impressed me. She has soft hands, she’s quick and competitive. I have no doubt in my mind that she will shine in that position.”
Senior Hailey Francis and freshmen Gabby Nemeth and Grace Whitney also are expected to log some varsity time this season.
Mixing in young players with a veteran core isn’t always easy or seamless but the Huskies have come together early in the preseason and Chambers is excited to see what they can do when the season opens up this weekend.
“Our team chemistry is something that will help us throughout this season,” she said. “It’s fun to watch them play and have fun together. That’s all I want with my program; work hard but have fun doing it.”