BOYERTOWN >> At one point Thursday night, Mike Ludwig scanned the rafters inside Boyertown High School’s Gymnasium.
Lined across the ceiling were the newly-hung banners commemorating the school’s PIAA state championship teams through the years.
Hey, you’ve got to start somewhere, right?
First-year head coach Mike Ludwig and the Boyertown girls volleyball squad looked like a unit of well-seasoned veterans throughout the night, putting the clamps down on visiting Norristown to win in straight sets and claim the program’s first varsity win. The set scores were 25-16, 25-17 and 25-14, as the Lady Bears were in control from start to finish.
“We’re really excited for the girls,” said Ludwig, “they’ve been working really hard since last season. So it’s nice to get a little reward out there.”
The win improves Boyertown to 1-1 in the Pioneer Athletic Conference (1-1 overall) a night after they opened up the season with a straight-set loss against Spring-Ford. Norristown drops to 0-2 in the PAC (0-3 overall) with straight-set losses against Perkiomen Valley and Coatesville.
A girls varsity volleyball team had been nearly two decades in the making at Boyertown, with Ludwig at the cornerstone of it all. When he first arrived at the district, he presented the idea but was ultimately shut down.
Then two years ago, Ludwig, who also serves as the varsity boys basketball coach, presented the idea to athletic director Nick Palladino. All last season, the Bears played inter-squad games as a club team, garnering more and more interest throughout the district as the season went on.
Almost a year later, a high school sanctioned team was approved at a school board meeting in November of 2016, giving way for a varsity program in 2017.
So although they are technically considered a first-year program, the Lady Bears present plenty of experience between the lines and above the net.
“We have a lot of experienced girls,” said Ludwig. “We’ve got some girls who have played club and that certainly helps, but a lot of these kids have worked for a year together. They’ve put the time in.”
And by the looks of Thursday night, the Lady Bears are headed in the right direction.
“We’ve been anticipating this since last year as a club team,” said right side hitter Serena Salenga. “Just to be a part of the first team, that makes things even better. It’s awesome to be more competitive — that’s definitely what we’ve been wanting this entire time.”
Freshman outside hitter/setter Emma Ludwig came up with eight kills and 16 assists while junior Taylor Jones finished with nine kills — including a big blast during the second game that could have shaken the Richter Scale — to go along with 13 assists.
Sophomore libero Julia Smith had five digs to go along with a pair of kills and two aces while Salenga had four kills, three digs and an ace.
“This makes me so excited for the rest of the games this season,” said Jones, who with Salenga, serves as a team captain. “Just wanting to play, wanting to beat other teams.”
Jones was quick to note — it’s a much different experience looking across the net and seeing a different set of faces than the ones she’d seen all last season.
“It’s totally different than going up against your team,” she said “You’ve got the nerves — that gets you going, makes you want to play better.”
With five freshman and just one senior — middle hitter Toyvannah Wright — listed on her varsity roster, first-year head coach Connie L. Randolph and Norristown will be looking to make strides similar to Boyertown this season.
“We’re taking our lumps, but we’re learning from them,” said Randolph, who also described Norristown as ‘building up’ this season. “These girls are getting some really good varsity experience, especially the underclassmen going up against older players.
“That experience will go a long way.”
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