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Central York volleyball reloads as setter Emma Saxton grows from competition

The situation could cause stress for other coaches.

Even for a deep team, even for a team with all this height and front-line power, Central York had to find a setter.

After the defending league champions lost setter Julia Terpak to graduation, it would be normal to worry. Yet, coach Nate Ocasio does not hesitate when asked if he felt concerned about this.

"Not at all," Ocasio said.

It helps that Emma Saxton and Madison Luring are on the roster.

"It's kind of a reload," he added.

"It's a great thing to have two good setters in the gym."

• • •

The competition for starting setter went beyond the preseason.

Pressed to make a decision, Central York decided on opening night — minutes before the game.

Video: Watch Emma Saxton and the Panthers in action

"We have two really good setters on our team, so it was kind of a competition that keeps me up and makes me sure I'm staying on my game so I don't slack during practice," Saxton said. "It's nerve-wracking ... but it helps me."

Central's coaches went with Saxton, a girl probably known more for her basketball skills. She hopes to play basketball after high school, but the junior also dreams of being able to play volleyball in college.

With the starting spot comes pressure and pregame butterflies.

"It takes me awhile, a couple reps, to get my mojo," Saxton said.

Her spot in the starting lineup has been a journey.

• • •

Even now, Central York setter coach Dwayne Warehime can be heard talking to Saxton during matches.

"He's probably one of the best coaches I'd ever had," Saxton said. "He's telling me rep after rep what I need to fix."

This is not new instruction, just reinforcement, Saxton said. She learned everything she needed to know about the position in her freshman and sophomore years, but it's still good to have the constant reinforcement.

"We start as soon as they get in the program," Warehime said. "We're looking for someone that's athletic. To me the feet are more important than anything else because you can teach the hands."

Saxton had the footwork to succeed.

"She's an athlete," Ocasio said.

But she also had tenacity.

"She will just run through the wall, it's an expression everyone says, but I'm telling you she will do everything she can to get to every ball," Warehime said. "She does not bail out. She will go after it with her hands, 100 percent, all the time in practice. I mean, we have to shut her down in practice sometimes so she won't hurt herself."

• • •

Right now, it's all about performing.

"It's about reps and experience," Warehime said of Saxton's learning curve this season.

And she could be pushed all season.

"It's always a great thing to have competition," Warehime said. "That usually means your team is good. That usually means you have more players. That means when you come into the gym, you better be on your game, you know? But it's something you have to learn how to handle."

And so far, Saxton has done that.

On the floor one second, popping a set to her outside hitter the next, it doesn't exactly look like an easy job setting one of the deepest and tallest teams Central York (3-0, 3-0 YAIAA Division I) has fielded in recent memory. Still, Saxton smiles when asked about it.

"It's really relaxing because any ball, I can push it to anyone and trust that they can kill it," she said.

Contact Jim Seip at 771-2025.