If you watched Canton volleyball the past few years you have seen the combination a number of times.
Caitlyn Pepper making the set, Sam Proseus flying in for the kill, and some poor defender trying to return the kill attempt.
For this challenge, I was the poor defender. I tried to return some kill attempts by Proseus, and wound up with the bruises to prove it.
Then, I flipped to the other side of the net and tried to kill a few of Pepper’s sets.
Both Pepper and Proseus have been playing the sport since junior high.
“I have been playing since seventh grade and I started playing year round then,” Pepper said.
“I started in eighth grade, so I was a little bit late to the party,” Proseus added. “I started Nightmare (travel), I think 2-3 years afterwards.”
Both kind of wish they could have done it earlier, but know they learned a lot starting when they did.
“It would have been even better if we started in grade school,” Proseus said.
“I wish we had a program that started younger, but I feel they do a good job of teaching us in seventh grade,” Pepper added.
For Pepper right from the start she was a setter.
“They just tossed me in there because I was one of the taller ones in the group and I just picked it up quickly,” Pepper said.
And, with her size she tried other spots, but knew setter was for her.
“I definitely tried some different positions, but I always came back to setting,” she said.
For Proseus things at the net didn’t come easy early on.
“Definitely not,” she said. “I remember when coach put me in varsity for like the first time and I went out for like two plays and I sat back down and was a nervous wreck. It was a process for sure.”
One of the things that Pepper and Proseus have learned is how much they can help each other on the court.
“Being a setter, your hitters can make you look good and usually Sam always makes me look good,” Pepper said.
“Never a day goes by I wasn’t grateful for Caitlyn,” Proseus said.
The two also make each other, and their teammates, better in practice.
“She definitely taught me how to cover the line a little bit,” Pepper said.
“It’s not just me either, Caitlyn is packing some heat on her serves to,” Proseus said.
Both players plan to play in college next year. Pepper will play at King’s and Proseus at Elmira.
The two had hoped to face each other in college, but at least freshman year that won’t happen.
“We were looking forward to playing against each other, but I don’t think it lines up,” Pepper said.
If one day the two do face each other in college, they know it would be interesting.
“I would be talking so much smack,” Proseus said.
The two already talk a lot in practice and even in games when they play together.
“It’s definitely fun, we definitely talk a lot across the net,” Pepper said of practice.
“We talk a lot of smack to each other, so definitely, we helped each other just by being competitive,” Proseus said.
The two are usually able to keep the game fun, and loose with how well they get along on the court.
“We can just do something to make each other laugh and not take it to seriously and refocus to get into the game,” Proseus said. “I looked forward to practice, not only just Caitlyn, but my other teammates were all super close.”
Pepper saw many times when her teammate kept people loose on the court.
“When Sam would be going for a kill and she’d come in and hit everyone on the top of the head, it makes everybody calm down and realize we still are in the game,” Pepper said.
One thing that will be different for both players next year is working with different players.
“It’s always been me setting for her,” Pepper said.
“I have thought about that already, it is definitely going to be tough, but I’m going to keep an open mind and know other teams do it,” Proseus said. “I just happen to have my best friend be my setter.”
Over the years Pepper got to know Proseus, and all of her teammates, and what they like.
“Knowing where my dependable hitters were, I could seek them out on the court and feed them the ball,” Pepper said. “It was definitely a learning experience. Coach used to yell at me all the time because of people’s arms length.”
Over time the relationship between the players allowed them to do different things.
“I feel like there were definitely a couple surprises we had and other teams weren’t expecting them,” Pepper said. “It was way easier once we could figure each other out.”
“I was always used to an outside set, it was fun when we introduced some things like little shoots and back sets, it was fun,” Proseus said. “I could definitely count on her for sure.”
A lot of the connection between Pepper and Proseus came from them talking so much.
“We would talk about it at practice a lot, the biggest thing is communication,” Proseus said.
Next year Proseus will have a new person setting for her.
“I know the younger girls on JV have set me before, it will be different for sure, I kind of have to go with it,” Proseus said.
And, Pepper knows it’s going to be an adjustment playing at the college level.
“It’s going to take some time figuring it out, figuring out how everyone wants their set and how people play differently,” Pepper said.
Both are excited to see what’s next in volleyball.
“I am kind of nervous, but it’s a good kind of nervous, anticipating what it’s like,” Pepper said.
Standing across the net returning kill attempts by Proseus, you can see the power, which she will bring to college. And Pepper was able to set hittable balls even for me, showing her abilities.