By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
Edgewood senior middle hitter Katie Thomas and Geneva junior outside hitter Chelsea Scafuro have a lot in common.
Both were left with big shoes to fill for their respective volleyball teams.
Thomas was asked to fill the void left by her sister, Ashley, as the Warriors’ leading lady. Scafuro, who is in her third season with Eagles’ varsity, was expected to do much the same after Geneva graduated a talented senior.
Each did so in spades.
Thomas’ Warriors were 19-2 on the season. Scafuro paced the Eagles to 16-7 (9-3 in Premier Athletic Conference) season.
Both players were thrust into the spotlight after playing in the shadow of other stars. And both welcomed the role.
“She took to it really well,” Edgewood coach Dave Fowler said of Thomas. “She’s a unique kid. Physically, she’s pretty gifted. Emotionally, she’s a really, really solid kid. She doesn’t let pressure bother her.
“When things go well, she enjoys it. When they don’t go well, she doesn’t pout. She’s not a victim. She just goes on with trying to get the job done.”
“I don’t even know how to put it,” Geneva coach Annah Haeseler said. “What I look for from her is calmness. She’s calm and collected. She has that attitude, ‘Give me the ball, I’ll get it done.’ She doesn’t get flustered. That’s what you look for in a captain. She’s cool under pressure.”
Thomas and Scafuro are the Star Beacon Ashtabula Co-Players of the year.
It’s the second year in a row a Thomas has earned the honor. Ashley Thomas claimed it a year ago.
“(Following Ashley’s footsteps) means everything,” Thomas, the daughter of Drew and Michelle Thomas said. “I always wanted to fit into Ashley’s shoes from the beginning. I knew the team needed someone.
“I loved playing with Ashley. She would get the most mad at me (last year) because I would go in for her. But she was making me a better player. I looked up to her a lot.”
All leaders have one thing in common — character. And both Thomas and Scafuro have plenty of it.
“(Katie’s) a genuine kid,” Fowler said. “The good thing with being a coach and a teacher is you get to see the whole picture. She was a student in my Chemistry II class. On the court, she’s a quality kid. That extended into the classroom. She’s a hard-working kid.
“She has one of the best characters you can have. Anyone can work hard when things are going well. But when things go south, will they put in the effort? You’ll find out that she does. When her score isn’t something she wants, she doesn’t pout or complain. She just works harder.”
“In years past, the girls I’ve had had that stand out had an aura about them,” Haeseler said. “They were not approachable (by the younger players) in any way, especially at practice.
“Chelsea’s not one to have that. She go over to the younger players and crack a joke. You wouldn’t know that she’s a star player.”
Both Scafuro and Thomas learned from the players who came before them. But both also stepped into the spotlight and led in their own unique ways.
Scafuro likes to relieve the tension with a laugh.
“(My sense of humor) comes out in key moments because in those times, you need to be positive,” Scafuro, the daughter of Greg and Marcia Scafuro said. “You have to have an upbeat attitude to be able to be successful. You’ve got to be able to have fun. My sense of humor just brings everyone along.”
Thomas was quiet and led by example.
“I feel like I made myself proud with how I did things,” Thomas said. “I didn’t have (Ashley) here (to help lead the way).”
Scafuro and Thomas are quick to point to their teammates when any mention of the team comes into play. The duo was unselfish all season, each trying to buck the wishes of their coaches in order to get teammates more involved in the action.
But both knew when it was time to take over, as well.
“Sometimes I just got in the mood to make the next point,” Thomas said. “I felt like I should take it in my hands.”
“It should be inside,” Scafuro said. “You know when it’s time to step up. You should automatically just take that role, which is what I try my best to do.”
And they both delivered when their teams needed them most.
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula. Reach him at email@example.com.
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