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Published: Thursday, 9/28/2006

Sidelines: Talented trio leads Jackets

BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Perrysburg has three seniors who have already committedto play at Division I schools, from left  Amber Lopez (Marist), MelissaSzkutnik (Ohio) and Chelsea Campbell (Xavier). The Yellow Jackets have been stung by injuries but are getting healthy for a late-season run.
Perrysburg has three seniors who have already committedto play at Division I schools, from left Amber Lopez (Marist), MelissaSzkutnik (Ohio) and Chelsea Campbell (Xavier). The Yellow Jackets have been stung by injuries but are getting healthy for a late-season run.
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No one expects more from Perrysburg in volleyball this season than Perrysburg.

And, in particular, no one is more determined to see the Yellow Jackets succeed than seniors Melissa Szkutnik, Chelsea Campbell and Amber Lopez.

They are Perrysburg s talented trio and each already has a commitment to play at a Division I college.

But for them there s plenty to prove. Most notably, a Northern Lakes League championship .

We really want to win the leaguebecause that s what we ve wanted to do ever since we ve been in high school, said Szkutnik, bound for Ohio University.

Campbell, a 6-footer, is headed to Xavier University. Like Szkutnik, Campbell s college plans were already put into motion by the end of her sophomore year when she received a scholarship offer. They were recognized at the time as two of the nation s top sophomore players.

Lopez, a 5-1 setter, recently accepted an offer to continue playing volleyball at Marist College.

Perrysburg is considered one of the area s most talented teams. Yet, the Yellow Jackets also have been viewed as underachieving in the past.

We want to prove to a lot of people that we re better than what we ve played at times, Lopez said.

Perrysburg has been in contention for the NLL title over the past three years while Szkutnik and Campbell have been regulars. However, the Yellow Jackets have never won it.

Unexpected setbacks at the start of this season have made the chance to win a league title more difficult than expected.

A lot of teams think we re the favorite because we have three Division I recruits, but we have not been healthy, Perrysburg coach Jeff Beck said.

Injuries have caused Campbell (abdomen), Szkutnik (hip) and Lopez (ankle) to miss time for practices and games.

Perrysburg, which entered the week at 8-5 overall, completed the first half of its NLL schedule in third place at 5-2. The Jackets suffered losses to Northview and defending champion Bowling Green.

All season long we haven t had one practice when I ve had the starting six on the floor for an entire practice, Beck said. I ve had to plan practices around who can do what based on injuries.

But the Jackets have remained determined. When Szkutnik, Campbell and Lopez have been able to step on the court, they ve produced the kind of results that earned them all-league and all-district recognition.

Szkutnik s has a team-leading 172 kills through 13 games, on par with her statistics last season. She has put up solid numbers despite spending a few games playing primarily in the back row.

Campbell has been bothered the most by injury. Her playing and practice time have been limited the most due to an abdominal strain suffered over the summer while playing club volleyball. Yet, she has still come through to produce 152 kills and 91 digs entering this week.

She s playing through the pain, Beck said. She does not want to sit out the season. The players know they re in a competitive league, but they know they don t want to make injuries an excuse.

Lopez, who leads the Jackets with 320 assists, has been playing injured much of the season after suffering an ankle sprain early on. Like Campbell, Lopez s injury is not expected to completely heal until after an extended period of time of inactivity. The setter doesn t foresee any significant down time anytime soon.

I chose to continue playing because this is my senior year, Lopez said.

Campbell isn t calling it quits either until the season is complete.

It s only made me train even harder and I ll work out even longer now to try and get overall stronger, Campbell said.

The Yellow Jackets head into the second half of the league schedule this week with a greater sense of optimism in spite of the fact that Northview closed out the first half 7-0 and BG was 6-1.

Part of the optimism stems from the fact they defeated Northview in three games in a non-league meeting not long after losing to the Wildcats. They re also encouraged about the prospects of Jordan Hamons (139 digs), Lauren Naveaux (22 blocks) and Jenny Shafer (25 aces) providing even greater support down the stretch.

However, with Szkutnik, Campbell and Lopez being as healthy as they ve been all season, the Yellow Jackets feel like their best volleyball is still ahead of them.

We re getting better and we re getting healthier, Beck said. This is the first practice in two weeks where everyone will be able to take part in all the drills.

Contact Donald Emmons at:emmons@theblade.com or 419-724-6302.



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