At Benet, the libeor is more than just a position, it’s a legacy.
It started with Paige Vargas, who roamed the backrow for the 2008 state runner-ups. She gave way to Brianne Riley, Kansas’ all-time digs leader and a two-time Academic All-Big 12 First Team selection. It continued with North Carolina rookie Sheila Doyle, a two-time tournament MVP as a high school senior.
For Benet and its back-to-back state titles, 223 wins and four sectional crowns over the past six years, the conversation starts with the players who wear the off-colored jersey.
“The hitters seem to get all the glory, but around here we make sure the hitters aren’t getting all the glory,” Benet coach Brad Baker said. “We understand how important defense and service receive are.”
This year, it’s Wake Forest recruit Caroline Wolf who’s roaming the back row for the Redwings. Wolf served as a defensive specialist last year, contributing 125 digs and 26 aces for the Class 4A state champions.
“I love playing libero,” said Wolf, who like her predecessor was named MVP of the Benet invite. “Sheila was a great role model. She was very encouraging. I really liked playing with her a lot. Obviously, it’s a little bit different (without her).
“But I think we have a great back row this year,” she added. “We have Natalie (junior Canulli) and Tiffany (sophomore Clark). I think they also do a great job covering the floor. We just do a great job of communicating as a group.”
Although Benet has struggled offensively while waiting for veteran middle hitter Brittany Pavich to return from injury, the Redwings have not missed a beat defensively in the early stages of the 2013 season.
“Caroline enables us to play the same defense we did last year,” Baker said. “Our defense requires the libero to be extremely fast and cover more ground than normal. We require the libero to take control of the defense and be a leader on the floor.
“She stepped in that role and exceeded all the expectations I could’ve had,” the coach added. “She came into high school as a good player, but she’s worked to make herself a great player and an elite defender by spending more time in the gym than any kid I know.”
Wolf played several sports before entering high school, but found she had a passion for volleyball. Like Vargas before her, she started her volleyball career as a hitter.
“I started playing volleyball in seventh grade, but I didn’t start playing libero until my 15 club year,” she said. “I don’t miss hitting. I love getting those balls up that you would never think that someone could, and I’m a very loud person. I like communicating with everybody.”
Wolf also cherishes last year’s state championship season, and wouldn’t mind another trip to Bloomington this fall.
“Last year was very special,” Wolf said. “I think the reason is because how close we were. We weren’t just a team, we were a family. I think the older girls did a really good job of making sure we focused on each match, one at a time.
“That’s what we seniors are trying to do this year. We’re trying to get the younger players to realize we just can’t just dilly-dally and wait until the last second. We have to focus on each game, and when the time comes, we’ll focus on the state tournament.
“Right now, we need to focus on the regular season and getting ourselves going,” she said.