Northeast Times

Nationwide talents

Play­ers on the Holy Fam­ily vol­ley­ball team rep­res­ent a num­ber of ho­met­owns. They’ve jour­neyed far and wide to be part of the Ti­gers’ win­ning pro­gram.

They’ve mi­grated from all over the coun­try to be here. 

One thing has brought them to­geth­er — vol­ley­ball.  

The Holy Fam­ily Uni­versity wo­men’s vol­ley­ball squad rep­res­ents a broad range of ho­met­owns, with play­ers hail­ing from In­di­ana, Wis­con­sin, Ohio, Vir­gin­ia, Illinois, New Jer­sey and Michigan. There are three play­ers from Pennsylvania — spe­cific­ally King of Prus­sia, Rid­ley Park and Shrews­bury.  

Re­gard­less of their roots, though, the Ti­gers have formed a second fam­ily at the North­east Phil­adelphia uni­versity, and it looks like they’ve cre­ated a per­fect com­bin­a­tion on the vol­ley­ball court. 

“It’s great to have such a di­verse team, and hav­ing play­ers from all dif­fer­ent back­grounds. Dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try teach dif­fer­ent things, so we try to in­cor­por­ate that,” said Holy Fam­ily head coach Scott Hi­bbs. “They can share that know­ledge with every­one else. I try to grab hold of that and use it.”

So far, it’s work­ing. 

The Ti­gers are 10-1 in the Cent­ral At­lantic Col­legi­ate Con­fer­ence. Holy Fam­ily swept Phil­adelphia Uni­versity, 3-0, (the scores were 25-17, 25-18 and 25-13) on Oct. 6, ex­tend­ing the team’s win streak to eight games. Their un­defeated con­fer­ence re­cord ended, however, with a 3-0 loss to Cald­well Col­lege on Sat­urday. Holy Fam­ily is now 13-10 over­all. (Holy Fam­ily played Uni­versity of the Sci­ences on Tues­day, after the Times went to press this week.)

“I think we’re do­ing really well, and I’m really ex­cited about it. It’s been pretty out­stand­ing,” said Chelsea Kee­gan, a sopho­more from Bucyr­us, Ohio. “We all came in really fo­cused and had that goal of win­ning it all, and we’re on our way to get­ting there.”

The Ti­gers had some high ex­pect­a­tions to live up to after last sea­son’s suc­cess­ful run. Holy Fam­ily rode a 12-match win streak deep in­to the post­season, earn­ing an ap­pear­ance in the CACC tour­na­ment fi­nals for the first time since 2007 — only to suf­fer a heart­break­ing loss to Cald­well Col­lege. The Ti­gers fin­ished con­fer­ence play with a 16-3 re­cord, earn­ing their first-ever reg­u­lar-sea­son title.  

“We had high hopes for the sea­son; now we’re just try­ing to prove it,” said seni­or Jordan Be­land, a nat­ive of Shrews­bury, Pa. “We don’t want to go by what they say. We want to prove it, so we’ll keep work­ing hard and hope­fully it’ll pay off.”

Be­land is cer­tainly do­ing her part on the court this sea­son. Last week­end she be­came Holy Fam­ily Uni­versity’s all-time lead­er in digs with 1,827. A two-time All-CACC se­lec­tion — she earned the hon­ors in her sopho­more and ju­ni­or sea­sons — Be­land has tal­lied 323 digs, and count­ing, this sea­son.

The Ti­gers are fo­cus­ing on the fi­nal weeks of the reg­u­lar sea­son, which con­cludes with a match against Chest­nut Hill Col­lege on Nov. 1. One week later, the CACC cham­pi­on­ship tour­na­ment will be­gin. 

“Now that it’s to­ward the end of the sea­son, we’re hav­ing more of a team game, which has been in­cred­ible. It’s a great feel­ing on and off the court,” said seni­or Jill­ian Keeve, a four-year com­pet­it­or for the Ti­gers. “We have ma­tured im­mensely. It’s in­cred­ible how the trans­ition has come. We have a lot more con­fid­ence and a lot more en­ergy. We know that we can do well if we keep that men­tal edge.”

Keeve, who is from Chica­go, has made North­east Phil­adelphia her home away from home for four years. She chose Holy Fam­ily be­cause of the sol­id repu­ta­tion of its aca­dem­ic pro­grams, she said.

ldquo;It was the com­bin­a­tion of the vis­it and the repu­ta­tion that Holy Fam­ily has,” said Keeve, who was named to the CACC All-Aca­dem­ic team dur­ing the past two sea­sons. “I really liked the area of the school. I’ve nev­er really been on the East Coast be­fore and I wanted to ex­per­i­ence something dif­fer­ent.”

For oth­er ath­letes, such as sopho­more Chelsea Kee­gan, the small class size and in­tim­ate at­mo­sphere at­trac­ted her to Holy Fam­ily. 

“I’m from a really small area my­self, so I liked the close-knit com­munity here,” said Kee­gan, a bio­logy ma­jor. “It’s such a neat ex­per­i­ence be­cause this is a small school, but Phil­adelphia is so huge. It’s so dif­fer­ent for me. I’m from a little farm area. I love be­ing here. I get home­sick some­times, but it’s not too bad.”

“Phil­adelphia is really dif­fer­ent,” ad­ded Sarah Am­bach, who’s from a small Ohio town called Spring­boro. “It’s funny to no­tice the little things, like there are so many diners here. There were no diners near me. And every­one here says ‘wooder’ in­stead of ‘wa­ter’. No­ti­cing the dif­fer­ent ac­cents is cool.” 

Many of the vol­ley­ball play­ers are liv­ing to­geth­er, some on cam­pus, some in neigh­bor­ing hous­ing. 

“I think com­ing to­geth­er as a team has made a big dif­fer­ence … be­com­ing that fam­ily that we are,” said ju­ni­or Cara Przybylow­icz, of Rid­ley Park. “When we play to­geth­er as a team, we play our best and ex­cel. A lot of that close­ness ori­gin­ates off the court.” ••

You can reach at myerkov@bsmphilly.com.

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