Experience nets gains for Bethlehem

Experience matters for the Bethlehem girls volleyball team.

With their starting lineup back for another season, the Lady Eagles are 4-0 in the Suburban Council and taking aim at a third consecutive Section II Class AA title.

They're pretty much the reason why we're so successful, said Bethlehem coach Lisa Kniffen. "Having so many kids with two or three years of experience " and, in the case of Jaci Oskam, four years " has really helped us out."

Oskam and senior Kat Rice are the heart of Bethlehem's offense once again. Oskam was the Lady Eagles' top performer in the opening week with 22 kills in two matches, while Rice had a strong second week with 17 kills and 11 service aces in victories over Colonie and Shaker.

"I think having Jaci and Kat in the front court is nice because blockers don't know who's going to hit the ball," said Kniffen.

Behind Oskam and Rice is a group of talented veterans who have a common goal of getting back to the state playoffs. Kniffen said that won't be easy, though, since there are several talented teams in the Class AA ranks.

"It's hard for me because I don't want them to be disappointed if we didn't make it, but I think " especially for our seniors " that they would be disappointed if we didn't make it at least that far again," said Kniffen.

The Lady Eagles face some tough competition this week. After playing Saratoga Springs Monday, they meet Niskayuna Wednesday and Suburban Council power Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Friday. BH-BL will likely still be riding a league winning streak that has stretched over the better part of the last decade.

"It would be nice to be the one [to beat BH-BL], but it's a long shot because they always have a strong program," said Kniffen. "We consider it a victory just to take a game from them."

The Guilderland girls volleyball team is also off to a strong start. The Lady Dutch raised their Suburban Council record to 4-0 (5-0 overall) with last Thursday's 3-1 victory over Saratoga.

Liz Tapler had six kills, six service points and 27 digs to lead Guilderland. Allison VanDoren recorded eight kills and 10 service points, and Quincy Kinzel added six kills and 14 service points.

After hosting Shaker Monday, Guilderland travels to Shenendehowa Wednesday.""

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