Graver helps LaSalle to stellar season
Perhaps the La Salle women’s volleyball team took a page out of the Philadelphia Eagles’ playbook. After the Eagles embraced their underdog role last season on their way to the team’s first Super Bowl win, the Explorers adopted a similar mentality this past fall season.
And taking on that underdog role resulted in a historic season for La Salle. One of Parkland’s very own was a part of it.
Sophomore defensive specialist Samantha Graver, the Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year with Parkland in 2016, helped La Salle qualify for the Atlantic 10 tournament for the first time and advance all the way to the semifinals.
“What really drove us to our success was our ability to recognize and take advantage of the underdog mentality we have had for quite a long time,” Graver said. “Despite probably having the most talent than ever before this year on our team, I believe this underdog mentality pushed us forward and allowed us to handle and carry the success we had early in the season to the end.”
In the Explorer’s quarterfinal win against Duquesne, Graver finished with a team-best 21 digs. It was La Salle’s 18th win of the season, the most in program history since the 1991 campaign.
“[Head coach Caitlin Schweihofer] brings in better players each year, and the team sets higher standards for ourselves each season,” Graver said. “Last year was a huge improvement from the year before, and this year was a remarkable jump from last. We were predicted to be seeded ninth in the conference and finished third with our first ever Atlantic 10 appearance.”
Graver finished the season with 143 kills and 306 digs (second best on the team) in a season that saw her transition from outside hitter to defensive specialist.
Graver spent her entire career at Parkland as an outside hitter when she was named the state’s top player. The transition was a bit of a difficult one, especially after missing six games due to a back injury during her freshman season.
“I accepted my role of the primary defensive specialist this year because it was what the team needed of me at the time,” Graver said. “My teammates made the temporary transition for me easy with all of the support and constant feedback they provided.”
The change in position solidified a strong unit and arguably La Salle’s most talented group under Schweihofer. Paired with Graver’s growth at defensive specialist, hitters Devin Corah (team-high 412 kills), Elizabeth Osborn (264), Madison Kuch (256) and Catherine Edgington (224) all helped La Salle make history in 2018.
“I believe our talent and mindset displayed our ability to make it to the tournament, which is why it was our goal going into the season,” Graver said. “Once we reached that goal and secured a spot in the tournament, we took a step back and realized just how much ability and talent we had to go forward and adjusted our goals as we moved forward.”
Graver plans to continue rehab on her back to get back to 100 percent prior to next season. In the offseason, she’ll also continue with weight lifting sessions and individual workouts as the Explorers prepare for an even better 2019.