The Yorktown volleyball team experienced life without Elyse Bush late in the 2009 campaign, when the senior all-region outside hitter suffered a season-ending knee injury. Without their best player, the Patriots lost their regular-season finale to Washington-Lee (Yorktown’s first National District loss since 2007), fell to newcomer Hayfield in the district title match and were bounced in the opening round of regionals.
Nine months later, Yorktown enters the 2010 season in search of success without the player it relied upon so heavily for the past four years. While the Patriots have a lot to prove, fifth-year head coach Brittanie Behar, who led Yorktown to district titles in 2006 and 2008, said they have the talent to compete.
"I think we’re doing a good job of moving on," Behar said. "Some of the girls are really stepping up. … Any time you lose seniors it’s a new dynamic. I think the girls are doing a good job responding."
Two reasons for Behar’s optimism are the Rock sisters, Ashley and Katie. Ashley Rock was a standout middle blocker as a sophomore, helping dominate district opponents alongside Bush. Now a junior, Ashley Rock is viewed as a team leader and the Patriots’ top offensive threat.
"She definitely leads by example," Behar said. "She’s a very steady player. She gets lots of energy when she’s doing well, but she’s not the kind of player that brings the team down when she’s struggling. She’s very positive and the girls respond really well to her. They know how good she is and how much experience she’s had. We’re going to be looking at her a lot in the same way we did at Elyse in her late years — to be getting lots of kills, to be taking lots of balls, to be really aggressive and she’s doing a really good job of it so far."
Katie Rock enters her sophomore season as the team’s top outside hitter.
"Katie’s made tons of improvements from last year," Behar said, "and she’s ready to be our No. 1 outside."
Katie Rock received playing time as a freshman, which should help with her transition into a prominent role.
"For me, filling the shoes of Elyse is hard," Katie Rock said. "I know I’m not there yet. I don’t have as much pressure as most people would think. I don’t really feel the pressure to fill anyone else’s shoes. It’s more about what I need to do for myself."
Taking over at setter for graduated standout Libby Kane is junior Kaley Burlingame. Coming from the junior varsity level, Burlingame said the transition has been challenging.
"It’s definitely a whole different level of playing, but I really enjoy it and everyone’s really helpful," she said. "It’s a lot of learning what each person needs for their sets. I’m getting the hang of it."
Behar has worked with Burlingame during each of the last two club volleyball seasons.
"She’s very aggressive, she’s very vocal, she’s very coachable," Behar said of her setter. "She’s very willing to make adjustments and talk to the girls and figure out what they need."
Taylor Brown and Lauren Sims are Yorktown’s only seniors. Also on the team are: Sarah Riley, Eva Muszynski, Alina Kramer, Kylie Stewart, Tricia Leano, Lauren Dresser and Casey Deans.
Yorktown opened its season with a 3-0 win over McLean on Aug. 30 and travels to face Stone Bridge at 7:15 p.m. on Sept. 1. The Patriots open district play on Sept. 27 at Washington-Lee.
"Yesterday [in practice] we did a drill that [Bush] always won," Ashley Rock said. "It’s kind of like, ‘Elyse always won this. Who’s going to do it this year?’"