PANTHER OF THE WEEK: Huppee brings experience to young Lady Panther lineup

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By Lance Catchings

The Lady Panther volleyball team is young this season. With their youth on the court, Head Coach Gretchen Peterson is counting on some of her veteran players to help lead the charge and one of those players is second-year letterman Emily Huppee.

“Emily has really had to step in and fill various roles early on for us this season,” Peterson said.

“She has assumed leadership roles and although she is quiet she has taken many of our younger players under her wing. She has high expectations for herself and she is a hard worker.”

Huppee knows that for her team to be successful she must help be one of the leaders to guide the young team, and although hesitant at first, she is filling the role nicely.

“This season I have had to step out of my comfort zone to be more of a vocal leader on and off the court,” Huppee said.

“Last season we had so many seniors and I just looked up to them for direction. This season, I am one of the ones that is being looked up to. Coach Peterson has been pushing me and the other returners to fill those necessary leadership roles. At first, I was nervous because last season I was not needed in that leadership role like I am this season. Stepping up to that was a challenge, but I feel I am ready for it.”

Having teammates look to her for guidance has affected her game in a positive way.

“I do feel like it has made me a more confident volleyball player this season,” she said.

“Last season if I made a mistake I would get nervous about it, but this year if that happens I just shake it off. Mistakes will happen and that is what I tell my teammates. We must shake off our mistakes and keep playing hard because everyone makes mistakes.”

Last season, Huppee was a rotational front row player and this year she is everywhere and anywhere that is needed. The Lady Panthers have played in tight games all season and Huppee believes it will only be a positive experience moving forward.

“This season is a little different than last year,” she said. “In 2017, we had so many returners we were used to winning games by a lot and didn’t have very many tight games. This year, we must work hard and keep pushing ourselves in practice. We must understand that we will have tight games this year and we will have to keep pushing through to get better. Playing the high intensity tight games that we have will only help us when we get to district. When we do get in those games and situations we will know what to do because we have been there before.”

It has been said that a team is like a cake, you can’t rush it in the oven, but given enough time, things come together nicely. Huppee hadn’t heard of the reference, but agrees with the sentiment.

“We are growing together and getting closer with each game we play,” she said.

“Since the first day we walked on the court, we have gotten closer as teammates. Our setter and hitter connections have gotten better and we are starting to run our plays better. Our chemistry is growing with each other and will continue to build.”

In volleyball, setters and hitters are like quarterbacks and receivers in football. It takes time to get the timing right, but once they have it down opposing teams need to watch out.

“It takes hard work and patience when you are trying to build relationships between setters and hitters,” she said. “We need to work on some of those connections, but if we can stay patient and talk about it that helps a lot.”

There is no doubt the Lady Panthers have a talented roster of players, and as they gain experience it will make them a force to be reckoned with this season.

“I am excited for this season,” she said. “I feel like we have a lot of potential and as we come together more we will only improve. It will be a mistake if teams take us lightly. We try to have high intensity about us, and if we play a team down the road that thinks we are not as good as last year that will be a mistake. I believe we can be as good as last year’s team. We just need a little more time.”

Lance@LHIndependent.com

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