Volleyball notebook

Heritage, Magruder turn to talented setters

By Matt Brooks and James Wagner
Tuesday, September 21, 2010; 4:26 PM

Stephanie Yokoyama rose up for a ball opposite Broad Run's big front line and waited. All of 5-foot-2, Heritage's setter knew she could not out-jump the blockers on the other side of the net, but she timed her kill for the precise moment the Spartans' middle hitter began to come down. Yokoyama put away the kill and the Pride put away Broad Run on September 15th to claim a 3-0 start to their season.

Now a junior, Yokoyama was inserted into Heritage's starting setter role as a freshman, already possessing the skill and tact necessary to lead an offense. And while her height is more typical of a high school libero, Yokoyama has continued to grow in her role, developing into one of the top setters in the Virginia AAA Northwest Region.

"She may be 5-2 but she plays like she's 6-5," Pride Coach Carmel Keilty said. "She's smart, she's consistent and she can set from anywhere on the floor. She just knows what to do to get the job done."

Now in their second year in the Cedar Run District, the Pride hope Yokoyama's leadership can help them vie for district and region titles. Senior right side hitter Lian Bernett has three years of chemistry with her setter and Heritage added size up front with 6-1 junior Maryland commit Kelsey Hrebenach, who missed all of 2009 with a foot injury. And when they get senior hitter Emma Le Maitre back from a foot injury of her own, the Pride could be a force in the postseason.

New role for Magruder's Li

Before the season, Magruder Coach Scott Zanni sat down senior setter Xiaoyi Li to chat. With eight players gone from last year's Maryland 4A state runner-up, including All-Met outside hitter Michelle Fowle, Zanni wanted Li to take a greater role in the team's scoring.

So far, Li has excelled and the results are paying off for the young team. As a setter, Li is more accustomed to passing the ball to her teammates. But at 5-foot-8, she is taller than most setters and has also gotten stronger. Through three games and a tournament two weeks ago, Li has 29 kills. Last season, she had 32.

"I think she's the best setter in Montgomery County, and one of the better ones in the D.C. area," said Zanni, who has coached at Magruder since 1996. "And I've had some good setters in the past few years."

Li, also a skilled server, and senior outside hitter Molly Hirrlinger helped the Colonels win the Magruder Invitational on Sept. 11, defeating Sherwood in the final. Magruder's only loss was to No. 2 Good Counsel earlier this month.

"I think we're going to continue to get better," Zanni said. "I really like this group and they respond well to challenges and if they keep doing that, we'll be ready to contend."

matt.brooks@wpost.com wagnerjames@washpost.com

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