Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Crusaders Stars Have Staying Power Undefeated BK Volleyball Team Led by Underclassmen

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Crusaders Stars Have Staying Power Undefeated BK Volleyball Team Led by Underclassmen

Article excerpt

Byline: Bryan Mullen, Times-Union sports writer

Sometimes she catches herself smiling. Right there, standing on the sideline, coaching the Bishop Kenny girls volleyball team. Janice Turner doesn't mean it as a dig to the coaches of other schools, but the smile is tough to block.

It has nothing to do with her team's 14-0 record. And it's not because the Crusaders are the area's top volleyball squad.

It has to with next season. "Sometimes I giggle," said Janice Turner, the third-year Kenny coach. "I look on the floor and think, 'This is our team next year. And the year after that.' "

It's not a show of cockiness, just a basic human reaction. The soft-spoken coach knows the bulk of the team's talent rests in four juniors, a sophomore and a freshman. It's enough to make the usually subdued Turner grin, and enough to make opposing coaches wince.

In 1999, the Lady Crusaders won the Class 4A state championship, marking their place as the best volleyball team in Bishop Kenny's history. But history could soon change.

"The comparison isn't even close," Turner said when asked the difference between the 1999 and 2001 teams. "This team is a lot more talented and has a lot more depth. If one girl is having a bad day, five other girls can step in. It's great from a coaching standpoint."

Juniors Erica Moore and Liz Brookshire combine to possess more playoff and big-match experience than any pair of seniors in the city. Then there's junior Meagan Houser, a middle blocker who can leap high enough to touch a regulation 10-foot basketball rim. Turner said Emily Hartigan, another junior, is the area's best all-around player.

And, should the young ones need some leadership, they can look to defensive specialist Jill Blanchard. The senior has been to the state playoffs three times.

"In the four years I've been here, there's always been someone in a leadership role," Blanchard said. "But this team doesn't need one. Everyone is very disciplined. This team is going to be very good during the next couple of years."

The younger players credit the strong friendships within the team as a key for their success. …

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