As an All-Nebraska libero last season, Sydney Townsend excelled for Lincoln Pius X.
Due in part to heavy graduation losses, the decision was made — by many, as it turned out — to shift her to outside hitter for her senior year.
The move is paying off for 8-1 Pius. Townsend has made the transition a smooth one, pounding 75 kills in her shift from defense to offense.
“In practice, we pretty much play every position so we'll know what to do,” she said. “The switch didn't bother me, and it was what was best for the team.”
Townsend's move from her libero comfort zone was interesting for another reason — she has committed to play libero at Nebraska.
“I always tell Syd that she's a Thunderbolt first and a Husker after that,” Pius coach Jake Moore said. “I think as long as she's playing somewhere on the floor then the Nebraska people are OK with it.”
Townsend had played some outside hitter as a freshman before moving to the back-row libero position the next two years. She also had played in the front row for her club team.
Moore said the input of Townsend's club coaches and his own assistants helped him make the move. The graduation of top hitters Kristy Wieser and Kennedy Hegert also prompted the shift.
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In a match last week against then-Top 10 ratings leader Lincoln Southwest, Townsend pounded 14 kills in the four-set victory. In the Class B No. 3 Thunderbolts' win Tuesday over No. 2 Omaha Skutt, she chipped in nine.
“It's nice to be able to get some kills for a change,” she said. “Before I was mostly concerned with just keeping the ball in play, so I like being able to put those shots down.”
Townsend's showing on offense has been bolstered by the strong play of front-row teammates Ashley Witt and Kaitlin VanLoon.
“They've been able to take some of the pressure off of Syd,” Moore said. “I'm very happy with the way things are going so far.”
Townsend also has taken on more of a leadership role.
“As a ninth-grader, she would never talk,” Moore said. “Now she's one of our more vocal leaders, and I never would have expected that.”
The 5-foot-8 Townsend, who had more than 600 digs last season, enjoys the Thunderbolts' role as a potential underdog. Pius entered this week ranked behind Skutt and top-ranked, undefeated Grand Island Northwest, the defending Class B state champion.
“We've graduated a lot of seniors the past two years, and I'm not sure people knew what to expect from us,” Townsend said. “So far, the team has exceeded expectations a lot.”
The Thunderbolts will be tested this weekend in the 16-team Lincoln Public Schools Classic, which will include several ranked Class A and Class B teams.
“That tournament is always a big one for us,” Moore said. “It'll be another important step in our journey this season.”