September 29, 2021

Junior Transfer Villamil Making Sudden Impact, Helping PHS Girls’ Volleyball Produce 6-3 Start

SUDDEN IMPACT: Princeton High girls’ volleyball player Sarah Villamil returns the ball last Thursday against Notre Dame. With junior transfer Villamil coming up with a match-high nine kills, PHS defeated Notre Dame 2-0 (27-25, 25-20). The Tigers, who defeated WW/P-South 2-0 (25-23, 25-15) last Monday to improve to 6-3, host Lawrenceville School on September 30, play at Florence on October 2 and then host Hopewell Valley on October 4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Moving north from Florida, Sarah Villamil has found a home with the Princeton High girls’ volleyball team.

“We are all about having a positive mindset,” said PHS junior Villamil, who came to the Princeton area from Broward County in South Florida.

“It is about being ready and having the mindset that you are going to win and fighting for and getting it.”

Last Thursday, Villamil and PHS had a fight on their hands as they hosted Notre Dame. The Tigers jumped out to a 20-13 lead in the first set only to see the Irish battle back to make it 25-25.

“You can’t waste the energy that you have on being concerned,” said Villamil, reflecting on the Notre Dame rally.

“You have to waste it on getting the point and getting the win.”

Villamil ended up getting the winning point on a kill as PHS pulled out a 27-25 win.

“It just kind of happened,” said Villamil. “Once it happened, it was a crazy feeling, knowing that you did it.”

In the second set, the Tigers found themselves in another battle as the teams were tied at 12-12. With Villamil leading the way at the net, PHS took the set 25-20 to win the match 2-0.

“I think what made the difference for the whole game was the attitude and having the right energy that we are going to fight back and that we are going to win,” said Villamil, who had a match-high nine kills, three digs, and five service points in the win.

“It is believing in yourself that you are going to do it and going out and getting it. It is not wasting any time doubting yourself.”

Villamil is having a good time carving out a key role with  her new team.

“It is just to do your best and give the team what you can and have fun doing it,” said Villamil, who contributed 11 kills as PHS defeated WW/P-South 2-0 (25-23, 25-15) last Monday to improve to 6-3.

“We all just bring such an energy when we are all playing together. It is an amazing time to play with everybody.”

PHS head coach Patty Manhart likes the way her squad is playing in recent weeks after it started the season 0-2.

“We have been inconsistent every so often, I feel like we are starting to come together,” said Manhart.

“This was a new starting lineup for us, last year we graduated six seniors. It is just figuring it out, getting used to who are you are next to, trusting your teammates. It is good to see things click.”

The arrival of new face Villamil has been a big plus for the Tigers.

“Sarah is adding power and height; she he is just an aggressive hitter,” asserted Manhart.

“She is smart, she can block, she can hit. We keep her in on serve receive. If the team is down, it is let’s go to Sarah on this one and she can side us out.”

Manhart credited Villamil with playing a big role in the win over Notre Dame.

“A lot of times it is where we are in that rotation so it worked out that was when Sarah was up front,” said Manhart. “That just wrapped up a couple of points.”

While the win was encouraging, Manhart knows her team needs to be sharper defensively.

“We always struggle on serve receive but we know we can do it,” said Manhart.

“Once we are able to get out of our own heads on serve receive and pass the ball, we can side out. We just get stuck out there on the passing sometimes.”

Senior captain and libero Shiffon Qian is doing some good things for the Tigers.

“This is her first year in that starting libero spot consistently and she is really working hard,” said Manhart of Qian who had nine digs and an assist against Notre Dame.

“Shiffon is getting more digs, she has really been additive on defense and that is really helpful. She is very focused and is always asking for feedback. She wants to do well in that position and it shows.”

With PHS having posted wins in six of its last seven matches, Manhart is looking for her squad to keep raising the level of its game.

“We need to pass better on serve receive and learn how to side out right away and have no peaks and valleys,” said Manhart, whose team hosts Lawrenceville School on September 30, plays at Florence on October 2, and then hosts Hopewell Valley on October 4.

“I am not making any major changes, I am happy with the lineup. It is just having that consistency moving forward.”

Villamil, for her part, believes that the Tigers just need to stay in the moment to keep getting better.

“We just want focus on one game at a time, one play at a time, do our best and have fun with it,” said Villamil.