Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
KINNIKINNICK — Coming into last fall, Zane Trace wasn’t looked at by many as a conference title contender.
The Pioneers, who were coming off a 9-15 record the year before, were settling into a second year with head coach Cyndi Davis and were young at many spots on the floor.
But Davis brought out the best in her girls, leading the group to a 19-6 overall record, a third-place finish in an always-loaded Scioto Valley Conference, and a district final appearance.
Laynee Hill played a key role in hushing the Pioneers’ doubters. Hill, then a sophomore, logged 70 kills, 23 service aces, 14 blocks, 52 assists, and 261 digs in 80 sets. This year, she’s looking to boost each of those numbers to new highs.
With volleyball season right around the corner, we caught up with the Pioneers’ junior outside hitter to discuss the upcoming year, playing in the SVC, lessons learned and much more.
Question: As you enter your junior year, what are you hoping to improve upon the most?
Hill: This year, I’m wanting to improve my all-around game and just become a better player in general. But most importantly, I’m hoping to improve my leadership skills as we’ll have to fill the roles of our seniors that we lost this past year.
Q: You guys were really young last year. That youth is now experience. What do you think that year of experience does for you and the other girls?
LH: We’re still a fairly young group this year with having no seniors. But the experience on the court makes up for that. Being able to play with the same girls the past two years has really benefited our team chemistry and our skill level as a whole.
Q: Having said that, you do suffer some losses in players like Evie Bennett, Maddie Rann and Hannah Unger. What do you expect out of the younger girls as they fill those roles?
LH: Our seniors last year really contributed to our team and they will be hard spots to fill. We have a lot of talent in our underclassmen and I can’t wait to see what they add to our team. We hold everybody to the same expectations; to work hard and to play the best volleyball you can, no matter what age you are.
Q: Individually, you posted 261 digs and 70 kills last fall. What do you like better, playing offense or defense?
LH: I try to be an all-around player and it’s hard to pick a favorite. I try to do equally well in both offense and defense.
Q: Can you describe what it’s like to play in the Scioto Valley Conference each night?
LH: The SVC is by far one of the most challenging and competitive conferences around. You know going into every game that it’s going to be tough because every team holds its own. Every night is a battle but that’s the fun part of playing in the SVC.
Q: In an overall sense, what can we expect to see out of the Pioneers this coming season?
LH: This upcoming season, we hope to finish in the top of the league. Last year, we finished right behind the top two teams and you always want to improve yourself. This year will be a very exciting year for us since we will be relatively young. We are a young but experienced team and we all have the same goals. Everyone is determined to reach those goals this season.