By Gary R. Rasberry
ROCKFORD -- While most of the ink in volleyball goes to the front row players who spike the ball with tenacity, one has to remember that someone had to set the play up.
A team having one good setter will go a long way.
Two good setters?
The coach may want to buy lottery tickets for being so lucky.
The unsung heroes of the Parkway volleyball team are its setting duo of seniors Tory Henkle and Erika Snyder. They are not on the court at the same time. When Snyder comes in to serve, Henkle is replaced by a front-row player, and vice versa when Henkle's spot on the service line comes up.
"Giving us two setters gives us six good hitters," said Tory, the daughter of Parkway coach Todd Henkle. "If we ran a 5-1, we'd have just one setter and only five hitters. It gives us bigger guns, if you look at it that way. That's one of the biggest advantages."
One of the things that makes the rotation work for everyone on the team is the fact that both Henkle and Snyder are in their third varsity season as setters.
"It's easy to play on the court with them because we all get along and are good friends on and off the court," said Snyder. "When you have good friendships, you work well and have good teamwork."
"They're the ones that probably think the most out on the court," said coach Henkle. "With our offensive system, we're always changing things up. If Jeff (assistant coach Jeff Marbaugh) sees something on the defense, he relays it to me. They're always looking at me between plays wanting to know what offense to run."
Another thing that's been key for the Panthers is that both Tory and Erika serve the ball the same way.
"We want all the sets in practice to be consistent. We want Tory's sets to look like Erika's and vice versa, even with Elaine Crowell, who's our backup setter," said coach Henkle. "We're always on them about making the sets the same for the hitters, not that it's going to happen 100 percent of the time, but everybody has to have the same type set."
"We try to make the sets the best possible for the hitters," added Snyder.
For Tory Henkle, who has watched many of the games her father coached through the years, she got a good idea of what to expect from a setter.
During the back-to-back state title seasons for Parkway, the Panthers had Brandi Stover, who later earned All-America status at Ohio Northern.
"Every ball was accurate," said Tory. "She could read the passers and tell where the ball was going. She's definitely someone you would want to play like."
While the setting is as close as possible between Henkle and Snyder, both bring different things to the other aspects of the game. Snyder is adept with the quickset, pushing the ball over to the other side when the other team is expecting the spike.
"The coaches watch to see if there's a spot open for me," said Snyder. "The coaches will tell me if I shoot off the pass or rally."
"I tell them if they feel they can run that, go ahead," said coach Henkle. "We probably kept it in our pocket this year, running it a little later in the first game and not showing it off the bat. They're used to following Bekah (Rebekah Roehm) and Laura (Art) around the net, hitting two-balls and three-balls, then we run the quick. It seems to be more effective. Then we can fake the quick and our outsides are open."
Tory Henkle has been solid with the serving and has made big defensive plays at key times throughout the season. The biggest defensive play came in the regional final against Margaretta, where she pancaked the ball -- putting her palm flat to the group and keeping the ball from hitting the floor -- to set up another Parkway point that stymied the Bears in game four.
"Tory will serve a little more aggressive than Erika. Erika has a little more tendency to put the ball more right on target. Tory's probably a little quicker on defense," said coach Henkle. "Each one pretty much evens each other out, looking at the whole match."
One of the most important roles the pair have is being the calming force when things look rough.
"We've just got to pick each other up when we're down," said Tory. "If somebody's having a bad game, give them pointers in what they can do to make their game better."