Like any good quarterback or point guard, the setter position in the game of volleyball runs the show. The goal in each offensive possession is to give the setter an opportunity to set up an attack, much as a quarterback helps the offense work upfield or a point guard puts plays in motion.
The setter is unique in the ultimate team sport of volleyball — they must be everywhere at once, they must know the strength and weaknesses of both their teammates and opposition around the net and it's up to them to keep the hitters hitting.
It takes a great setter to keep the offense running, especially when plays break down. With a hand in each possession they can turn a broken play into gold with an extra step and a flick of the wrists. A great setter is key to any winning team, with none more apparent than the Pope John Paul II Golden Panther's Genna Bevenour, the Times Herald 2013 Girl's Volleyball Player of the Year.
"She's one of the best athletes I've ever coached,' said PJP coach Ryan Sell, a setter himself in his playing days. "She's a better ball kind of kid, no matter what she can at least put something in the air. She hustles for the ball and gives 100 percent every time.'
Sell's term of "better ball' is a reference to Bevenour's ability to improve upon what she's given. If a serve-receive is dug off the net, Bevenour would risk life and limb to put the ball in a spot in the hitter's wheelhouse.
Bevenour proved time and time again that not only was she a tenacious and skilled athlete as the setter for the Golden Panthers, but her sheer athleticism kept plays alive. In situations where some teams would have sent a free ball over the net, Bevenour fed her players for kills.
"The difference between giving up a free ball and [the opponent] having to dig a hit ball makes a huge difference,' Bevenour said. "If you can run a few extra steps to get two hands on the ball, it's worth it.'
Pushed around the court in various rotations — specific players at the net drop back to pass serve while the setter avoids first contact — the setter is at times squirreled away in the corner, waiting on pins and needles for the opponent to serve to break for their spot at the net. From the time the ball is struck the setter must sprint to position and await the pass and hope it's on the money. They're in the predicament of both avoiding players in transition and also having the reflexes to run down an errant pass when a play breaks down. The setter must be everywhere and nowhere, ready to run a perfect play or fix a broken one, or able to turn an unenthused team to one who plays with fire.
"She understands the game and makes good decisions when it counts,' Sell said. "She's been running the team since she was a sophomore ... this season she learned how to fire up the team or keep them calm.'
As a leader on the court, Bevenour said the most important aspect of her job was to know every position on the court and to be familiar with the tendencies of her teammates.
"You're on the one who has to connect with the hitters more than anyone,' Bevenour said. "You're the only player on the team that runs the offense, which is why it's so comparable to a quarterback or a point guard.
"You have to pay attention to your side and the other side. You set the pace for the game.'
Feeding the strengths of hitters Kelly Tornetta, Nicole Dorman, Morgan Shemonski and Victoria Cruciani, Bevenour had the run of a potent offense at her disposal. The District 1 AA champion Golden Panthers benefitted tremendously from her ride-or-die enthusiasm in tracking down seemingly unplayable balls and making magic happen.
"You can teach all the technical skills in the world, but to run down a ball 20-feet out of play and make a set out of it, that's something special,' Sell said.
Against Villa Maria at the Dig Pink event at PJPII, one of the fondest memories Bevenour has of the season, the Golden Panthers rebounded after dropping the first two games and won the match 3-2. Bevenour had to know-all to feed Cruciani out of the middle and to find Shemonski on the weak-side (although Shemonski's spike is anything but weak) and rode their hot hands to victory.
"People don't think about it, but if you don't get a good set you can't get a kill. Bevenour said. "As a setter you get to make those big plays, it's cool watching, I'm in the best spot in the gym.'