Most of Catonsville’s starters from last season graduated, so coach Amanda Kaufman knew she needed to find out early who was going to step up into more prominent roles.
The Comets opened the season with three straight losses — to quality foes Century, Leonardtown and Garrison Forest.
Although the Comets didn’t win any sets in those three matches, they bounced back on Sept. 15 when they swept visiting Pikesville, 25-10, 25-13, 25-23.
“We came out of the gate with some really, really tough competition and we didn’t have any scrimmages this season, so it was hard to transition right into game play and then playing against such high-level teams,” coach Amanda Kaufman said. “We kind of needed this to get our confidence back in terms of serving and being able to run our offense, so I think it came at a really good time before we get into the top county schools like Hereford, Dulaney, Towson and Perry Hall.”
The early-season lineup looked entirely different from the 2021 version.
Seniors Lindsay Lutton, Thi Li, Leah Vacin, Maya Bowman and Sam Rickwalder and juniors Jaynie Simpkins, Abby Tartel and Zhane-Marie Lezama have all played prominent roles.
“I lost essentially my whole starting lineup,” Kaufman said. “They all graduated with the exception of Lindsey, who got some time on the outside last year, so it’s definitely a rebuilding year in terms of players and starting lineups and things like that, but I’m excited to see them grow and I’m excited to see how they finish up the season.”
Lutton is projected to be the team’s top hitter, but against Pikesville her serving excellence was on display in the third set when she had five straight aces early in the match.
“She plays all the way around the court, she’s a captain and she is definitely going to lead us offensively,” Kaufman said.
Tartel is another hitting offensive weapon.
“Abby Tartel is very consistent as a hitter and we are working to get our middles more involved so we can see a little bit more from them as well,” said Kaufman, whose Comets were 8-4 during the regular season and lost in the first round of the playoffs.
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Two returning defensive players from that squad include Li and Vacin. Li takes over as the starting libero.
“She has filled in as a libero really, really well,” said Kaufman, noting Vacin has already shown her versatility. “She was a top player at right back last year and she has transitioned to left back this year and she is doing a very nice job and she’s very consistent with her serving which is huge.”
One newcomer that surprised the coach is setter Lezama, who transferred from Trinidad and Tobago.
“Normally, we run a 5-1 so she is our main setter and I had no idea she was here, so that first day of tryouts she was a pleasant surprise,” Kaufman said.
Lezama had a key assist to Lutton that tied the third set 21-21 in the Pikesville match and the Comets went on to score four of the final six points with junior Sam Jankowski serving for two of the winners.
Jankowski and classmates Marleigh Freeman and Kristen Stout are reserves, along with senior setter Macy Hagar, who will set when they run a 6-2 offense, and sophomore Micaela Blair and freshman Kira King.
After hosting Sparrows Point on Friday, the Comets host Mount de Sales (Sept. 20) before going on the road to face Towson (Sept. 22) and Perry Hall (Sept. 24.)