As a freshman, Caitlin Vrabel was picked to play for Chambersburg's varsity girls volleyball squad.

Even though she earned her spot, that didn't mean it was easy.

"I liked it, but it was kind of different because I was with the older group of girls," Vrabel said. "They were talking about completely different things than what my ninth-grade friends were talking about. But I think it helped me grow, as a player and a person."

Fast-forward four seasons, and Vrabel is the Public Opinion Girls Volleyball Player of the Year.

Vrabel has been a three-year starter for the Trojans, and has become a standout middle hitter in the tough Mid Penn Commonwealth Division.

"She has that mental strength and desire to want to play at that level," Chambersburg coach Ty Frelin said. "She wants to compete against the Cumberland Valleys and the Central Dauphins. It's amazing how quick the last four years have gone.

"She came in as a skinny little freshman, and now she a dominant player in our league and, really, in the district."

Vrabel led the Trojans this season with 281 kills and 98 blocks, and it was her precision that was probably most impressive. She finished with only 45 hitting errors all season.

And aside from her physical strength on the court, Vrabel, a co-captain for the Trojans, emerged as a fine team leader.

"She was one of our captains, and she was a leader by example," Frelin said. "If we needed something in tough situations, she was mentally our go-to person more than anybody. She knew that, and other teams knew that."

Four years ago, it was Liashira Rivera, Karli Frelin and Aryn Rebok who guided Vrabel. This year, the tables were turned, as Vrabel guided sophomore setter Lauren Ching.

"She's quiet, but she is a great player," Vrabel said. "Being young, I think that's explains why she's quiet. She's younger than me, so maybe that's why. But I was that person once, who needed someone to take me under their wing. So listening and knowing how to do that the right way, hopefully I helped her so she can run the show next year."

Vrabel had a lot of confidence in her setter, who was also named a Public Opinion First-Team All-Star. Vrabel said the duo worked on implementing different strategies this season in order to keep defenses on their toes.

"I had to keep changing how I was playing, and I had to keep adjusting," Vrabel said. "Lauren and I tried some new stuff this year. For instance, when we're moving, it helps because sometimes the blocker doesn't move as fast with us, so we have more opportunities to get a point."

Frelin said another thing that helped Vrabel maintain such a strong level of success was simply her volleyball knowledge. During club volleyball, Vrabel was coached by Cumberland Valley's Jackie Orner, who helped her to see the court in different ways.

Plus, she had her team in her corner.

"Jackie Orner really helped me see (the court) in a different way than I used to," Vrabel said. "Also, my defense is talking to me all the time. Danessa (Martin) and Jenna (Lombardozzi) all the time, they'll tell me if the one-(hole) or the five is open, if I should tip the ball. They're really great with that, and it's so helpful."

Vrabel has played club volleyball since seventh grade and will continue her career at the University of Pitt-Johnstown. In fact, she has dedicated much of her life to volleyball and said, "I feel like I do volleyball all the time.

"But I love it. Just talking about it, playing it, it's something I really enjoy. It's something I know that if I'm having a rough day, I can go play volleyball and then it's a good day."

Caitlin Vrabel file

School: Chambersburg

Grade: Senior

Position: Middle hitter

Height: 6-feet

Other interests: In addition to playing club volleyball and holding down a job at Subway, Vrabel enjoys spending time with friends and music.

Surprising fact: Her nickname is Kitty.

Favorite team: Penn State

Athlete most admired: Carrie Walsh

People she'd like to have dinner with: Her grandfather and Walsh.

Statistics: Vrabel was a dominating force at the net, finishing the season with a team-high 281 kills and 98 blocks ... She had only 45 hitting errors all season ... She also contributed 73 digs and 25 aces.

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