ADAMS TWP — They are assassins in volleyball gear, their mission a clear one: Kill.
And kill they have.
The Mars volleyball team has been blessed with intimidating players at the net in its history, but never have the Planets had so many gifted hitters at the same time.
“We have five hitters,” said senior Abby Matusik. “That makes us pretty special.”
Matusik leads the team with 148 kills this season. Mars, though, has rolled up 534 kills — one of the most important and intimidating stats in the sport.
Seniors Jaden Zimmer, Morgan Verplank and Emily King and junior Kelsey Bruce also have impressive numbers at the net.
That may be important as the Planets battle through the WPIAL Class AA playoff bracket. Mars plays South Fayette in the quarterfinals at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at North Hills.
As the lone junior in the group, Bruce has made it a point to learn as much as she can from the seniors.
“I don’t know what I would do without my seniors,” Bruce said. “I’m going to miss them a lot next year. I probably wouldn’t know any of the stuff I know this year — if it wasn’t for Jaden, especially.”
Zimmer moved to middle hitter to make room for Bruce to take her spot on the outside.
Zimmer has taken Bruce under her rather lengthy wingspan this season to teach her the finer points of net dominance.
“It took a lot of hours of training,” Zimmer said. “But it was worth it. It makes us a better team.”
Bruce said it was stressful at first, being the only junior in the starting lineup and in such a key role on the team.
But as the season progressed, so to did her skill and confidence for the 14-3 Planets.
“I’m slowly getting there,” Bruce said. “It’s awesome being a junior out there. I honestly don’t know what I would do without the seniors helping me.”
Matusik is quick to point out that the play of the hitters wouldn’t be so potent without the players behind them.
“They work just as hard as we do, they just don’t get the recognition,” Matusik said. “Getting a good dig is just as important as a hit. Honestly, they deserve the same, if not more, recognition than we do because they get the ball up so we can execute and have the perfect hit.
“We’re all just one big team.”
Bruce is looking for her first taste of the state playoffs. The seniors had a fleeting glimpse of it when they were freshmen, but haven’t made it past the WPIAL quarterfinal round in the past two seasons.
“We’ve always had that in the back of our minds, getting to states, and that’s what we’ve been working for all year,” Matusik said. “It would make our senior year so special. It would be just the best.”
Bruce would like nothing more than to help reward the seniors.
“I’m just ready to do whatever I can to get them there,” Bruce said. “Road to states. All the way.”