Standing in the center of the court with a volleyball hurtling toward her at high speed is when Williamstown senior Summer Wroniuk is at her best.
“That’s the fun part,” Wroniuk said about trying to defend against high-speed spikes and tricky offensive plays. “It’s just more competitive, more active, it’s fun to be in.”
In 2019, Williamstown girls volleyball climbed to the top of the mountain with the program’s first Group 4 state championship in seven years. The Braves were well-rounded, with several outstanding players such as Lilyanna Martucci, McKenzie Melvin and Raina Hughes. But when the ball was in the opposing end of the court and the Braves went on defense, Wroniuk led the way. The Williamstown libero for three seasons, Wroniuk denied the opposition hundreds of times, recording 387 digs. Wroniuk was a defensive standout, a leader on and off the court and South Jersey Sports Weekly’s selection as Girls Volleyball Player of the Year.
“It’s really crazy,” Wroniuk said of how the 2019 season turned out. “Four years flew by. It feels unreal.”
Wroniuk couldn’t have imagined being a Girls Volleyball Player of the Year when she first joined the program in 2016. Wroniuk hadn’t played the sport prior to high school, instead competing in gymnastics. After she decided to quit gymnastics, Wroniuk looked for a new sport to play. That’s when head coach Chris Sheppard convinced her to join the volleyball program.
Wroniuk quickly progressed through the freshman and JV levels in her first season, eventually moving up to varsity before her 2016 season was over. In 2017, Wroniuk stepped into the libero position for the first time after playing setter as a freshman.
“I was quick on my feet, so they said they were changing my position because the position wasn’t filled,” Wroniuk said. “It was definitely a big role to fill. It was actually nerve wracking, but it was fun to fulfill.”
In volleyball, the libero is a player who can substitute for anyone in the back row of the court. Rules prevent the libero from making a kill on a ball above the net, going up to the net for a block or playing on the front row, making the player the leader of the defense in the back of the court.
“We’ve been fortunate in that we’ve had some really good liberos come through in a 12-year stretch,” Sheppard said. “She’s right there with any of them.”
Sheppard believes Wroniuk was so successful because of her ability to break down a play moments after it happened.
“(I’ll) watch her replay the point in her mind and what she did bad or what she did good,” Sheppard said. “I watched a few players come through where they replay a point in their mind and everyone who’s ever done it has turned out to be a really good player.”
One area where Wroniuk emerged this season was as a leader. Wroniuk credited the team’s past captains for their encouragement and leadership, allowing her to step into that role.
“As the years went on, it just kind of grew and grew,” Wroniuk said of her leadership abilities. “I got closer to my teammates.”
Sheppard said one of Wroniuk’s best assets was her ability to stay composed in pressure situations.
“She gets fired up when we’re doing well, but she also stays at an even keel and she’s been at the varsity level since her freshman year,” Sheppard said. “That’s another good attribute; she doesn’t get flustered.”
As excited as she was to be named Girls Volleyball Player of the Year, Wroniuk said it can’t match the feeling of winning a state title. Being able to achieve the Braves’ ultimate goal after coming up short in her first three seasons is something Wroniuk will remember forever.
— Summer Wroniuk (@SummerWroniuk) November 17, 2019
“Everything came together,” she said. “Four years was definitely a long time, so to get that goal was a big accomplishment.”
Sheppard believes Wroniuk will leave a lasting impression on the program. He sees Wroniuk’s story of going from a novice player to defensive star as an inspiration for future Braves.
“She worked to get where she’s at,” Sheppard said. “If we get other kids with the same kind of commitment, maybe they’ll put themselves in the same conversation as Summer Wroniuk.”