FISHERSVILLE — The Eastern Mennonite University volleyball team may be taken by swarm next season as two more former Wilson High graduates step into the program.

Both Paris Hutchinson and Olivia Bower intend to play volleyball for the Royals under new head coach Casey Steinbrecher. They will join former Wilson player Hannah Johnson on the EMU roster. All three played on Wilson’s 2017 state championship team under head coach Lauren Grove.

Johnson has been a fixture in the Royals’ lineup for two seasons, leading the team in digs and kills at various times and is currently one of the team captains.

“Hannah has been impressive,” Steinbrecher said. “She is hard working and humble; gradually becoming more vocal. She has become a necessity on the court the last two seasons with her all-around play.”

Hutchinson, an all-district, all-region and all-state player at Wilson, should provide an immediate bolt of energy to her college team.

“After visiting small and large colleges, I decided that I like the smaller schools,” Hutchinson said. “I have always been a homebody and with everything that is going on right now, it made more sense to stay close at home. The location is close to home so that my family and friends can come watch me play.”

Last fall, Hutchinson briefly met some of the EMU players and said that they were welcoming and seemed to be driven to be good teammates and also helpful in the community. She indicated that coach Steinbrecher had given her great advice on how to work on her game via conversations and zoom meetings.

“Paris is a quick, strong, competitive and talented athlete,” coach Grove said. “I am excited to see what she can bring to the next level. She is humble about her ability, and I think she will continue to develop as a powerful player.”

Being a left-handed hitter, Hutchinson brings a different dynamic to the volleyball court, something not lost on Steinbrecher.

“Paris has a strong arm, and I certainly see her competing to earn playing time as a pin hitter for us,” Steinbrecher said. “She has the ability to attack and block on either pin for us.”

The addition of Bower could prove to be a major coup for the Royals.

“Olivia wasn’t sure she was going to play in college, but we are sure glad she changed her mind,” Steinbrecher said. “She has great hands, a ton of potential and the drive and growth mindset needed to reach her potential. She will also contribute with her leadership and ability to stay calm and level on the court. We think Olivia will have a great career here at EMU.”

Steinbrecher previously served on the coaching staff at James Madison University.

He joined JMU staff in 2010 and was promoted to associate head coach in 2014. Steinbrecher took over the head coaching position in March for the s after 10 seasons with the Dukes.

The Royals hope to have turned the corner, having finished with a .500 record under former head coach Carrie Bert, their best season since 2001.

Steinbrecher said that the addition of Hutchinson and Bower will help EMU hit the ground running, hopefully in August if the COVID-19 pandemic allows fall sports to resume.

“Olivia and Paris have learned how to get the most out of each other and to keep each other level on the court,” Steinbrecher said.

Hutchinson is looking forward to reuniting with her high school teammates.

“Playing with Hannah and Olivia brings me a sense of comfort because we know how each other respond on the court,” Hutchinson said. “The best memory of my high school career was winning a state championship with them next to me. I would love to share another championship with those two teammates.”

Needless to say, Steinbrecher is happy to inherit the former Hornets’ connection.

“We will have three players from that 2017 Wilson Memorial state championship team on our court this fall,” Steinbrecher said. “I haven’t had the chance to meet coach Grove, but I sure would like to thank her for everything she has done with these players. We certainly enjoy having champions in our gym.”

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