March 31, 2021

Senior Star Ince Making Most of Final Campaign As PHS Girls’ Volleyball Aims to Get in the Groove

TWO-FISTED: Princeton High girls’ volleyball player Yani Ince returns the ball in recent action. Senior star and co-captain Ince is stepping up in her final campaign, piling up kills at the net. In upcoming action, PHS, now 1-6, plays at Rancocas Valley on March 31, at Princeton Day School on April 1, and at WW/P-North on April 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

After having lost its first three matches of the 2021 season by 2-0 scores, the Princeton High girls’ volleyball team got off to a promising start as it hosted Hopewell Valley last Thursday.

Hustling after balls and playing aggressively at the net, PHS won the first set 25-15.

“We decided that we were losing on our own mistakes and today we tried to be a little bit more on our toes,” said Tiger senior co-captain Yani Ince. “We played really, really well in the first set.”

The Tigers, though, got on their heels as they dropped the next two sets, 25-23 and 25-17, to fall 2-1 to HoVal.

“I think we relaxed a little bit in the second set,” said Ince, who ended up with a team-high 11 kills in the defeat. “In the third set, I think we were a little too slow.”

In reflecting on the setback, Ince believed PHS can take a valuable lesson from the experience.

“We need to work on maintaining a high level of energy throughout the entire game,” said Ince. “We need to work on that in our practices.”

A day later, Ince and the Tigers reached a higher level, breaking through with a 2-0 win (25-23, 25-19) over Northern Burlington as they split a doubleheader with the Greyhounds, losing 2-1 (25-20,17-25, 20-25) in the other match on the day.

“This is a game to see who makes the least mistakes,” said Ince.

“So when we are making mistakes, it is saying let’s shake it off, let’s move on to the next play, it is a new play. It is maintaining positive energy on the court.”

As a team co-captain along with classmate Amanda Shi, Ince strives to keep things positive.

“Volleyball is definitely a mental game as well as a physical game,” added Ince.

“Your mental game is really, really important. As a captain, I want to make sure that everyone is feeling good about themselves at all times on the court because when you are not it shows in the way we play.”

Looking good around the net, Ince piled up eight kills in the doubleheader against Northern Burlington in addition to the 11 she had against HoVal.

“I am hoping to bring consistency, I like to put points on the board,” said Ince.

Ince also likes playing with younger sister, PHS junior star Ayo. “We are very competitive people,” said Ince. “We are not twins but it is like twin telepathy on the court. We are really close, I love playing with her.”

Looking ahead, Ince is confident that PHS will be more and more competitive as the season goes on.

“We don’t have a preseason and that time to get into our groove,” said Ince.

“We have to do it in the game. We are really looking forward to playing some high level volleyball, raising the level of play and having fun.”

While PHS head coach Patty Manhart was happy to see her squad win the first set against HoVal, she was frustrated that the Tigers didn’t close the deal.

“It is on the girls just wanting it and playing hard,” said Manhart. “Maybe it is the inexperience, not really having returning varsity players who know how to close that game. It is just more time and experience. I hope it will come in time. I have been changing the lineups around a little bit. I was excited that this first set clicked.”

Manhart is excited about the play of senior standout Ince. “It was her idea to move to the opposite hitter, which was great because she is the stronger hitter on that side and is more confident,” said Manhart.

“It really paid off in how she produced tonight so that was a good call on her part.”

With PHS moving to 1-6 with a 2-0 loss (12-25, 21-25) to Rancocas Valley last Monday, Manhart is looking for her players to show more confidence on the court.

“In any game, you are going to lose a point or you might make a mistake, you have to shake it off and then want to fix it or make up for it in the next point,” said Manhart, whose team plays at Rancocas Valley on March 31, at Princeton Day School on April 1, and at WW/P-North on April 6.

“I feel like instead we tend to then get a little timid and give a free ball over or not go for the ball to receive on defense. It is just that mentality of wanting to come back and fix a mistake and come out stronger instead of them trying to play it safe.”

In addition to getting PHS on the winning track, Manhart is focused on making sure that the team’s Class of 2021, which includes Malia Gildersleeve, Carly Hubert, Megan Li, and Kylee Tucholski in addition to Shi and Ince, get to enjoy a special final campaign with the program.

“Most of the seniors are out there in the lineup,” said Manhart. “I want the seniors to leave with good memories of being able to play with each other. That is the most important part.”

Ince, for her part, is making those memories. “We are so happy to have a season; it was a little touch and go,” said Ince.

“I think all of us, especially the seniors, are very thankful that we have season, no matter how short it is. We are just excited to be back on the court again and playing as a team.”