There might be no tougher position in volleyball to replace than the setter.
Just ask Westminster Owls coach Karol Brown.
When Gina Hughes went down with a knee injury last spring playing softball, the Owls' 1993 volleyball season changed. Hughes had surgery and will miss the entire season.
"That certainly was the biggest problem for us, trying to find a replacement for her," said Brown.
Hughes was expected to run the show, set the table for returning hitters Kristen Haga and Jaime Wheat and help the Owls to a winning season.
The Owls (7-7 last season) still are looking to have a good year.
Senior Erica Boyce, a transfer from Virginia, is learning Brown's system and will fill the spot left by Hughes.
Aside from Haga and Wheat, the Owls don't have a lot of experience. How well the younger players respond to the pressures of playing at the varsity level will determine the Owls' season. Brown said it's been a learning experience for everyone.
"The kids are working extremely hard and learning where they need to be in different situations. They've shown the desire and have the ability, it just takes time," Brown said.
Haga and Wheat will have to provide the leadership for the Owls. Brown said they bring different qualities to the court.
"Kristen is very aggressive and strong at the net as a blocker. Anything close to the net, she'll send it right back," Brown said.
"Jaime is an exceptional defensive player who goes after a lot of balls others wouldn't."
Brown also is looking for big things from juniors Tara Dorsey and Elizabeth Lister. Dorsey is a solid hitter and blocker, and Lister either can set or hit.
Senior hitter Bridget Garner, a reserve last year, has improved.
A handful of underclass talent is up from junior varsity. Juniors Meredith Killmon and sophomore Mary Beth Myers are setters, juniors Becky Jones and Wendy Fritz are promising hitters and junior Ashli Stroud can play anywhere. Junior Constance Boyce, Erica's younger sister, also might see time.
Tara Haney, a junior hitter, is another Owl on the mend from injury but is expected back soon.
"Consistency is what we're lacking most right now, whether it be serving, hitting or on defense, but they looked a lot better in our scrimmage with Francis Scott Key [Tuesday]," Brown said.
"They seem to look a lot better when we scrimmage than when they're going through drills in practice, that's a good sign."