To paraphrase the famous line, the whole Exeter-Milligan volleyball team is greater than the sum of its parts.
All-stater Claire White was the only senior on last year’s squad that finished 32-2 and lost in the Class D-1 state championship match. White was significant both at the net and in the back row.
But with five seniors — who have been on the court since their freshman season — returning, that winning feeling isn’t going anywhere. In their first three seasons, they’ve won two state titles (2009, '10) and compiled a 92-8 record.
“As individuals, we’re average players,” senior middle blocker Jennifer Pribyl said. “But we’re great together as a team. We’ve been going to school together since preschool. We have that chemistry. We do our job and everything just clicks when we’re on the court.”
The most heralded of the seniors is 5-foot-6 setter Taylor Erdkamp, a first-team all-stater last fall. She’ll be operating a balanced attack with 5-8 outside hitter Jackie Luzum (244 kills last season), the 5-8 Pribyl (166 kills, 82 ace blocks), 5-9 right side Megan Zwickl (150 kills) and 5-9 middle Malinda Hall (127 kills).
“It’s crazy when you think about what these seniors have accomplished in their careers,” said Exeter-Milligan coach Darcy White, whose team starts the season ranked No. 3 in D-1. “Practices look really good. We have quality players back. I feel good about our hitters. We’re making some adjustments defensively because the girls were used to Claire taking control back there.”
There are no guarantees of success playing in the Crossroads Conference, where the Timberwolves play teams such as D-1 No. 5 BDS, D-2 No. 1 Giltner and D-2 No. 3 Hampton. The Wolves are at a triangular Thursday with BDS (host) and Hampton to open the season.
“The seniors definitely feel pressure,” said Luzum, who battled a shoulder injury this summer. “People think since we lost Claire, we’re going to fade away. We don’t want that to happen. We think we can do just as well as we have the last three years.”