By John Kovach
The position of setter in volleyball is the equivalent of being a quarterback in football.
The setter, like the quarterback, has to know the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent as well as that of her own teammates.
She has call and execute the plays that give her teammates the best chance of hitting the ball over the net so that it cannot be returned, in order to get a kill and score a point.
Her objective is to pass it the ball to a hitter, who can strike it so that it hits the ground before an opponent can return it.
And of course it also helps if the setter also can score points and play good defense.
Enter Jessie Szakacs, a 5-foot-7 sophomore setter for the Westminster College women’s volleyball team from Liberty High. She’s in her second year as a starter and can do it all for the school in New Wilmington, Pa.
Szakacs accumulated 1,152 assists this season in 123 sets, or 9.37 assists per set. She also had 43 service aces and averaged 1.19 kills, 2.6 digs and 0.55 blocks per set. She was selected to the All-Presidents’ Athletic Conference first team.
Szakacs is one of five Youngstown-area players to make All-PAC volleyball honors this year. On the second team are Kelly Barzak and Megan Kay of Thiel and Rachell Storm of Waynesburg. Alyssa Chine of Thiel was picked to the third team and Brandi Snavely of Geneva earned PAC Coaches Honors for NCAA Division III provisional member teams.
Barzak is a 6-1 freshman middle hitter from Howland High. Kay is a 5-8 sophomore outside hitter from Liberty. Storm is a 5-5 junior libero from Crestview High and New Waterford.
Chine is a 5-7 freshman outside hitter from Jackson-Milton High. Snavely is a 5-7 senior setter from Columbiana High.
Szakacs, the daughter of Wendy and Michael Szakacs, is majoring in elementary and special education with a 3.4 grade-point average. She said that her main job is to receive the ball from her teammates, set up a play and pass the ball to whomever she feels is in the best position to score.
She said that she uses hand signals to call a play when the other team is serving.
“The players then know what to do when the ball comes over the net. They are going to try to get the ball to me.
“Whoever gets the pass will try to get the ball to me and I will try to get it to another player so she can take a shot over the net,” Szakacs said.
But when her team is serving, she said she receives voice signals (audibles) from her teammates, “because when we are serving, you don’t know what the other team is going to do. We can’t control the passes.
“When we are serving, they call out the audibles to me before they anticipate and receive the ball, to tell me where they are going to hit the ball and what they are going to run. I should be the second person to touch the ball.
Then I have to get the ball to one of our hitters. You can only touch the ball three times,” said Szakacs, who ranked No. 3 in the PAC in assists.
Snavely held the No. 1 spot in assists in the PAC with 1,167 in 113 sets for a 10.33 per-set average.
Barzak was No. 1 in the PAC in hitting percentage with .389. She had 274 kills in 586 attempts with 46 errors in 120 sets.
She also led Thiel in blocks 113, including 44 solo stops.
Storm led the PAC in digs with 592 in 87 sets for a 6.80 per-set average.
Kay had 464 digs, 292 kills and 27 service aces.
Chine registered 253 kills (2.69 per set) along with 362 digs (3.85 per set) and 23 blocks.
Szakacs said that Westminster (13-23, 10-4 PAC for third place) wasn’t as good this year as last year, but that the outlook appears brighter for next season.
“We were better last year. We were first in PAC entering the PAC tournament, and we won the PAC tournament and went to the nationals but lost in the first round to Ohio Northern,” said Szakacs, whose 43 service aces were second on the team.
“We are only losing one senior. We were really young this year. But we have pretty much the whole team coming back and we should have a good year next season.”
The Titans are coached by Tammy Swearingen in her 17th season.