CHAMBERSBURG >> On paper, Chambersburg's girls volleyball team will be something to be feared.
The Trojans return the girl that Chambersburg coach Ty Frelin says has "the potential to be the best player in the division." They also bring back "one of the top setters around." And despite losing one of the area's top hitters to graduation, they boast a pair of really strong replacements.
The only problem is, Lauren Ching, that setter Frelin mentioned, missed the last two and a half weeks of preseason with a back injury. She is projected to return in the first week of the season.
"It's just hard to tell the last couple of weeks because we haven't been able to do a lot of stuff that we normally would be able to do," Frelin said. "It's unfortunate that we couldn't so as much with timing with a regular setter, but really, things happen for a reason. This will make us a stronger team down the road."
Although the Trojans graduated Jess Howe, they bring back middle hitter Caitlin Vrabel, who was second on the team with 218 kills. Alongside her will be Lauren Diller on the outside and Cara Long at opposite.
"It's definitely going to be tough knowing that people will be keeping an eye on me," Vrabel said. "But I think with my teammates behind me, we're going to be really good. We have a bunch of other hitters as well, so they're not going to have to just watch me."
Frelin said, "The last couple years, (Cara and Lauren) both been solid. This will be their third year playing varsity, so really, that's a lot of experience for your front-row players."
Bailey Nitterhouse will take over Howe's position as the Trojans' other outside hitter. Quarterbacking the team will be Ching upon return. Rebecca Stewart and Megan Bard split the setting duties during the preseason.
"Lauren is probably one of the top setters around; she just has all the skills," Frelin said. "She's extremely intelligent, and she plays the position effortlessly. Sometimes it looks like she's not doing what she's supposed to be doing, but that's because it's effortless to her."
A year ago, Ching split time with Kaitlyn Rush, who has graduated, and she still had more than 400 assists.
To go along with all of the offensive strengths, what Frelin is really excited about is the defense.
"We have four legitimate, good d-specs in addition to Rebecca when she isn't setting," Frelin said. "They're all playing different spots, too, which is nice."
Defensive specialist Kailey Layman said, "We have a lot of girls who play defense, so that's going to really help our team. If someone needs to go out for any reason – to cool off, or if they're having a bad day – we have other people that an immediately step in. You need that on a team."
Layman and Jenna Lombardozzi, who will also play d-spec and libero, are both team captains along with Vrabel. Laken Myers will also be a d-spec, and Danessa Martin joins the team on defense after spending the last three years at Mercersburg Academy.
"I think we'll be really strong on defense," Lombardozzi said. "We have a lot of girls who will go after the ball and are not gonna let the ball drop. We'll give it our all, and when we get good passes, we have a lot of girls who can put it away."
Theoretically, the Trojans have a recipe for success; now, it's just a matter of fitting the pieces into the puzzle.
TROJANS AT A GLANCE
Coach: Ty Frelin, 28th season, 389-165 (.702)
Last year: 14-5 (12-4 Mid Penn Commonwealth Division); lost in the first round of the District 3 Class AAA playoffs to Warwick, 3-0
Returning starters: Caitlin Vrabel (sr., MH), Lauren Diller (sr., OH), Cara Long (sr., OPP), Jenna Lombardozzi (jr., DS), Lauren Ching (so., S)
Other top players: Laken Myers (jr., DS), Megan Preso (sr., DS), Rebecca Stewart (sr., S/DS), Erin Lightfoot (jr., DS), Megan Bard (jr., S), Bailey Nitterhouse (so., OH), Hailee Holsopple (jr., MH), Danessa Martin (jr., DS)
Season opener: Tuesday, at Mifflin County, 7