TOWNSEND -- For the first time in over a decade, there will be a new face pacing the sidelines as coach of the North Middlesex volleyball team. Mark Roy will take over the reins for Jannine Roberts, the only coach in the program's history, and will look to guide the 2012 Lady Patriots to the Districts for the first time in six years.
"I feel extremely lucky to get this opportunity as a varsity coach and I could not ask for a better group of girls as my first varsity team," said Roy. "It is tough to take over a team, especially when this program has had only one coach, but Jannine has been gracious enough to continue to work with us, which is making the transition easier, and I can't thank her enough for that."
Helping Roy along the way will be a solid group of senior captains. Sam Roberts, Marissa Smith and Sam Marshall will provide leadership for North Middlesex this season. "Sam Roberts was an all-star last year and has a strong skill set," said Roy. "She is a strong outside hitter who uses her intelligence to her advantage on the court.
"Marissa is our libero and is an excellent passer. She has a great passion for the game and is the quintessential team player who will do anything to contribute to our success. Sam Marshall is the heart of our team from her setter position. She is great at putting her teammates in position to score; she covers a lot of ground and also is a solid hitter."
Another trio of seniors will bring a mix of experience and talent to the table for the Lady Patriots. Rebecca Gardner, Leah Acquviva and Amy Clement will all be counted upon to contribute this season. "Rebecca has missed some time with a concussion and we are taking it slow," said Roy. "When she is on the floor, she is a presence in the middle who can do a bit of everything for us.
"Leah is an outside hitter with a lot of power. When she makes contact with the ball, you can hear it from the other side of the gym. Amy will be on the right side for us and does a nice job of setting. She is a strong blocker on defense and she has done a nice job of adjusting to a new position."
A strong junior class will be important. Jackie Potvin, Alysia Pearce, Katherine Koulopoulos, Samantha Jurgilewicz and Emily Medrek are all going to see valuable time. "Jackie is a back row player who moves very well," said Roy. "She is extremely coachable, absorbing the information I throw at her.
"Alysia put in a lot of effort in the off-season to improve her game and it shows. She is a good setter who really has progressed as a hitter and blocker at the net. Katherine will play back row and outside hitter and has solid skills. She is a passer, serves really well and is willing to play anywhere I need her. Samantha is a poster child for what a player should do in the off-season. She sees the floor well, digs the ball, is absolutely fearless and a smart player. Emily is strong in the middle and does a nice job blocking at the net. She isn't imposing, so teams might not expect much out of her, but she will surprise a lot of people with her play."
The lone sophomore on the varsity squad is Kristina Osborne. "At the net, Kristina shows incredible timing on her blocks," said Roy. "She is extremely coachable and always puts forth a complete effort every day. Kristina wants the ball at all times and never wants to leave the floor."
Filling out the roster are a pair of injured players who hope to make their mark this year. Senior Allison Antosh and junior Mackenzie Farina are currently out for extended periods of time. "Allison is currently the manager of our team but she is working hard to get back this season," said Roy. "If she does get back, she will see time in the middle or right side front. Mackenzie is new to the game but really wants to be a part of it. She would also play some middle and right side front."
As a first-year coach, Roy is optimistic about his team's chances and thankful to take over such a quality team. "We have a strong team in terms of talent, but we are just as strong in the bond the kids have built," said Roy. "What we want to do is be physically and mentally tough and continue to improve every time we take the court. If we can do that, I think we have a shot at making the tournament."