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Nationwide talents

They’ve migrated from all over the country to be here.

One thing has brought them together — volleyball.

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The Holy Family University women’s volleyball squad represents a broad range of hometowns, with players hailing from Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, Virginia, Illinois, New Jersey and Michigan. There are three players from Pennsylvania — specifically King of Prussia, Ridley Park and Shrewsbury.

Regardless of their roots, though, the Tigers have formed a second family at the Northeast Philadelphia university, and it looks like they’ve created a perfect combination on the volleyball court.

“It’s great to have such a diverse team, and having players from all different backgrounds. Different parts of the country teach different things, so we try to incorporate that,” said Holy Family head coach Scott Hibbs. “They can share that knowledge with everyone else. I try to grab hold of that and use it.”

So far, it’s working.

The Tigers are 10–1 in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference. Holy Family swept Philadelphia University, 3–0, (the scores were 25–17, 25–18 and 25–13) on Oct. 6, extending the team’s win streak to eight games. Their undefeated conference record ended, however, with a 3–0 loss to Caldwell College on Saturday. Holy Family is now 13–10 overall. (Holy Family played University of the Sciences on Tuesday, after the Times went to press this week.)

“I think we’re doing really well, and I’m really excited about it. It’s been pretty outstanding,” said Chelsea Keegan, a sophomore from Bucyrus, Ohio. “We all came in really focused and had that goal of winning it all, and we’re on our way to getting there.”

The Tigers had some high expectations to live up to after last season’s successful run. Holy Family rode a 12-match win streak deep into the postseason, earning an appearance in the CACC tournament finals for the first time since 2007 — only to suffer a heartbreaking loss to Caldwell College. The Tigers finished conference play with a 16–3 record, earning their first-ever regular-season title.

“We had high hopes for the season; now we’re just trying to prove it,” said senior Jordan Beland, a native of Shrewsbury, Pa. “We don’t want to go by what they say. We want to prove it, so we’ll keep working hard and hopefully it’ll pay off.”

Beland is certainly doing her part on the court this season. Last weekend she became Holy Family University’s all-time leader in digs with 1,827. A two-time All-CACC selection — she earned the honors in her sophomore and junior seasons — Beland has tallied 323 digs, and counting, this season.

The Tigers are focusing on the final weeks of the regular season, which concludes with a match against Chestnut Hill College on Nov. 1. One week later, the CACC championship tournament will begin.

“Now that it’s toward the end of the season, we’re having more of a team game, which has been incredible. It’s a great feeling on and off the court,” said senior Jillian Keeve, a four-year competitor for the Tigers. “We have matured immensely. It’s incredible how the transition has come. We have a lot more confidence and a lot more energy. We know that we can do well if we keep that mental edge.”

Keeve, who is from Chicago, has made Northeast Philadelphia her home away from home for four years. She chose Holy Family because of the solid reputation of its academic programs, she said.

ldquo;It was the combination of the visit and the reputation that Holy Family has,” said Keeve, who was named to the CACC All-Academic team during the past two seasons. “I really liked the area of the school. I’ve never really been on the East Coast before and I wanted to experience something different.”

For other athletes, such as sophomore Chelsea Keegan, the small class size and intimate atmosphere attracted her to Holy Family.

“I’m from a really small area myself, so I liked the close-knit community here,” said Keegan, a biology major. “It’s such a neat experience because this is a small school, but Philadelphia is so huge. It’s so different for me. I’m from a little farm area. I love being here. I get homesick sometimes, but it’s not too bad.”

“Philadelphia is really different,” added Sarah Ambach, who’s from a small Ohio town called Springboro. “It’s funny to notice the little things, like there are so many diners here. There were no diners near me. And everyone here says ‘wooder’ instead of ‘water’. Noticing the different accents is cool.”

Many of the volleyball players are living together, some on campus, some in neighboring housing.

“I think coming together as a team has made a big difference . . . becoming that family that we are,” said junior Cara Przybylowicz, of Ridley Park. “When we play together as a team, we play our best and excel. A lot of that closeness originates off the court.” ••

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