CLARION, Pa. (EYT/D9) — It was Noel Anthony’s first day of volleyball — ever — and the eighth-grader was unsure of, well, everything.
Her friends had talked her into playing, and Anthony was in the same gym with the varsity and junior varsity players at Clarion Area High School.
Anthony was doing drills and taking a crash course in the basics of the sport when she was unexpectedly approached by freshman Brenna Campbell.
Campbell, the daughter of head coach Shari Campbell, pulled Anthony aside.
“Hey,” Campbell said. “I want you to be a setter.”
“You’re kidding?” Anthony answered. “I don’t know anything about volleyball. Are you serious?”
Campbell smiled. “Yeah,” she said. “You’re gonna be awesome.”
Turns out Campbell was pretty awesome herself, making the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association all-state team in Class A in all four years of her career as a setter at Clarion. Campbell graduated with more than 3,000 assists — an eye-popping 689 as a senior on the Bobcats’ 24-0 state title team last fall.
Anthony was flattered by the faith Campbell had in her to become a setter. Because of that unwavering belief, Anthony fully committed to learning that role.
For three years, Anthony became a sponge. She listed to everything Campbell had to say about the position while also serving as a defensive specialist for the varsity team and setting at the junior varsity level.
Now a senior this fall, Anthony finally gets her shot as the starting setter — a position with a storied history at the school.
Call Clarion “Setter High.”
“I’m excited. It’s a lot of pressure, but I think I can handle it,” Anthony said. “I’m just trying to be the best setter that my team can have, make sure every set is the best that it can be for the hitters and spread out the offense well. I just want to make sure the legacy lives on.”
Campbell was the latest of eight Clarion setters since 2000 who made the all-state team. She believes Anthony very well could be the ninth.
“I think she really picked up on how to lead a team from that position after watching for three years,” said Campbell, who is now a freshman on the McDaniel College volleyball team. “That’s one of the biggest keys. She’ll do just fine. I think she’ll continue on the little tradition we have.”
If she does, Anthony won’t have very far to look to find the reason why.
“Brenna taught me everything I know,” Anthony said. “She’s the reason why I am the way I am today. She’s just really taken me under her wing, and I’m just excited about carrying on what she laid out for me.”
Anthony has already shown she is ready for the part. At two team camps this summer — one at defending Class 2A champion Trinity High School in Camp Hill and the other at Fort LeBoeuf High School in Erie — Anthony acquitted herself well at the position.
It helps there is a wealth of talent around her. All-state selections Korrin Burns and Aryana Girvan return as outside hitters and Peyton Simko has also turned heads in the middle this offseason.
For Anthony, it’s an embarrassment of riches, no matter where she sends the ball.
“It’s incredible the talent we have,” Anthony said. “It’s super exciting.”
Knowing the important role she was going to play for the 2021 Clarion volleyball team, Anthony spent the summer working as hard as she could to perfect her setting craft.
After weight training, she’d go into the gym and practice setting, sometimes for as long as two hours.
At home, she’d recruit her mom to pepper with her, trying to set the ball through the basketball hoop in the driveway.
“I just work, work, work,” Anthony said. “I went to Clarion University’s setting camp. That was really, really helpful for me.”
While Anthony has dedicated herself to volleyball, softball still remains her No. 1 sport.
(Photo by Theresa Forrest)
Anthony made the Class A all-state team this spring after batting .544 with a home run, 22 RBI, and 15 doubles in just 12 games for Clarion. She drew a team-leading 14 walks out of the leadoff spot, scored 34 runs, and played stellar defense at second base — even though she said she is a more natural outfielder.
Snagging a spot on the all-state first-team was a surreal experience for Anthony.
“Honestly, I wasn’t expecting that,” she said. “I really was working my butt off — I work really hard at softball, too. I was ecstatic.”
Anthony hopes to play softball at the next level.
“I have some schools that I have in mind right now, and I’m reaching out to coaches,” Anthony said.
“I go the softball field every day with my dad,” added Anthony, who also plays basketball at Clarion. “Some days I’ll go from lifting, setting for two hours, to the softball field, and then home to shoot some hoops. It’s really fun, though. It keeps me busy. I’m never bored.”
A list of Clarion setters who have made the PVCA all-state team since 2000:
Brenna Campbell (2017, 2018, 2019, 2020)
Gloria Kroh (2016)
Katie Eustis (2013, 2014)
Brittany Hanlon (2010)
Kiersten Kiser (2008)
Alex Heller (2006)
Dani Hughes (2004)
Emily Sandora (2001, 2002)