Levine and Datti dig defensive role with Keene State women's volleyball team
KEENE, N.H. 10/18/10 –Keene State seniors Jamie Levine and Sammy Datti will be the first to tell you that their jobs with the Keene State women's volleyball team has its share of ups and downs.
Confined to the back row, behind the more celebrated hitters and setters, the two Owl defensive specialists do the dirty work, diving to the court with little regard for self preservation to keep the ball alive.
"Sometimes after a match, it looks like I've been beaten," said Levine. "I have bruises all over my body."
Known for her acrobatic kills and accurate serving, Datti, a two-year captain, also brings up the energy and intensity of her teammates on the floor. "I always like to be talking and telling people where to go," said Datti, who's called the "little general" by Coach Bob Weiner.
Like most sports, offense gets the headline, but it's the team's defense and passing that has the Owls 18-9 and undefeated (4-0) in the Little East Conference this season. "Good passing can make or break a team," said Weiner. "They not only make emergency plays, but they also make the basic plays. Their consistency is keeping us in matches."
It's not surprising that Levine (4.85), Datti (3.18), and junior Kristen Girard (3.14) are ranked among the top six players in digs per set in the conference.
It's surprising how the unlikely defensive duo came together at Keene State. Originally from Durham, N.H., Datti grew up in the University of New Hampshire field house where her parents, Gail Goodspeed and Ed Datti, have been longtime coaches of the Wildcat gymnastic program. Initially involved in that sport, Sammy switched to volleyball in middle school. She graduated with highest honors from Oyster River High School in 2007, completing her Bobcat career by making the NHIAA All-State team.
Born in Boston, Levine developed her volleyball skills in Texas before moving back to Medfield, Mass. Joining the Medfield High team as a senior, Levine helped lead the Warriors to the state (Division III) championship. "Every time I got a kill everyone in the stands would get up and say, 'She's from Texas,'" said Levine.
Once at Keene State, both players changed positions. Midway through her freshman season, Levine moved from outside hitter to defensive specialist/libero while Datti made the switch to the back row after playing setter in high school.
A member of Keene State's LEC championship and NCAA team as a sophomore, Datti waited her turn to join the Owls' defensive rotation. Returning to the team as a junior, Levine struggled at times to regain her freshman form.
After a few early adjustments, the combination began to click this season. "I love playing with Sammy," said Levine. "If we ever run into a problem, we communicate what we need to do to fix it. It's working really well."
"Over the years, Jamie and I have learned how to play with each other," said Datti. "We know what to do back there."
Both players were on top of their game in a recent match against Western Conn., when the Owls came back from a two-game deficit to spike the Colonials.
All over the court, Datti delivered several demonstrative digs to keep rallies going while the lively Levine broke the school record for digs (39). Weiner called it the Joe DiMaggio record because he never thought it would be broken.
Weiner calls Levine one of the best serve-receive players he's coached in his 24-year career. "That's an innate skill. It just happens, and she's got it," he said. "It's her most valuable skill for us."
Consistent and smart, Datti is the stabilizing force behind the team. "As a coach's daughter, she understands teams, sports, and players," said Weiner, who called Datti his best captain in his six years at Keene State. "She likes rules, discipline, and things to be in order. As a captain, everything gets taken care of."
A close, cohesive team on and off the court, the Owls are looking forward to their remaining LEC matches, including late-season dates with UMass-Dartmouth and nationally ranked UMass-Boston. "I feel really good about this team right now," said Datti. "We can't wait to play both teams."
Completing their careers as Little East champs – both Levine and Datti could dig that.