BURNT HILLS — As an eighth-grader, Carlie Rzeszotarski got a late-season call-up to join the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake varsity girls' volleyball team and saw a smattering of action.
As a freshman, she found herself starting on the front line for one of the top programs in New York state.
"There was kind of a lot of pressure, being asked to step in at a young age like that," Rzeszotarski, now a sophomore, said. "But the pressure helped motivate me, too. I had that opportunity, and I had to step up."
Rzeszotarski did that in a big way with her kills and blocks, and afterward some major awards came her way including an all-state second-team nod from the New York State Volleyball Coaches Association. PrepVolleyball.com listed Rzeszotarski as one of the nation's best 59 freshman players.
"This year," the 15-year-old said, "I want to step up even more."
Spartans coach Gary Bynon can see that happening, and plans to shift Rzeszotarski from middle blocker to outside hitter to get more swings from that right arm that produced a team-leading 295 kills last season.
"She better be ready to get a lot of sets," Bynon said.
Bynon is dealing with a more polished athlete than the one who delivered 30 kills in the state semifinals last November, when Burnt Hills went 2-4 and missed out on a chance to play for its seventh state championship.
"I worked a lot in the offseason and definitely got stronger," said the the 6-foot-1 sophomore who in mid-summer competed with some of her Lakeside Volleyball Club teammates at Junior Nationals in Indianapolis. "All of the repetitions helped my whole game."
"With any athlete, no matter what sport, you can tell the time they put in," Bynon said. "August comes around and you can see it."
Rzeszotarski's game features more than kills and blocks, the latter of which she had 48 last season. The Suburban Council all-star also had 45 defensive digs and served 52 aces.
"She is a six-rotation player. Throw in the 4.0 [grade-point class average] and the fact that she is a also a great teammate," Bynon said. "There is a lot of Division I interest. Dartmouth, Columbia, Dayton are just a few. Schools are out there watching."
Here are 10 more Section II athletes to keep an eye on this fall season.
ELLA KURTO (SARATOGA SPRINGS)
Kurto was selected the top freshman cross country runner by the New York State Sportswriters Association in 2018 after placing third at the Section II Class A meet, sixth at the state meet and 11th at the Nike Cross Regional Championships. Her effort at the state meet helped Saratoga capture its first title since 2005.
TARYN RINGER (JOHNSTOWN)
The Duke University field hockey commit scored a school-record 43 goals as a sophomore in 2018, and tied the state record with seven goals in a win over Gloversville. Ringer led the Lady Bills to the Foothills Council title and second place in the Section II Class C tournament, and repeated as an all-state selection.
JOE TORTELLO, NACIER HUNDLEY (HOLY TRINITY)
The prolific senior pass-catch combination from Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons returns for a fourth varsity season. Tortello passed for 1,955 yards and 27 touchdowns last year, and tied a state record with eight TD tosses in a single game. Hundley caught 15 of Tortello's scoring passes and joined his quarterback on the Daily Gazette All-Area first-team offense.
BROOKE PICKETT (STILLWATER)
The 2018 girls' soccer state Class C Player of the Year scored 52 goals after piling up 49 the prior year. Pickett delivered her final three goals as a junior when Stillwater knocked off Little Falls 5-0 to clinch the program's first state championship.
A.J. CAVOTTA (SARATOGA SPRINGS)
Shared scoring honors with since-graduated schoolmate Nolan Crowley at the Section II Class A golf championships with a 1-under 71. Cavotta's junior season also included a even-par 72 when he took second behind Crowley at the Suburban Council championships.
LOREN CUOMO (MOHONASEN)
Rallied from a set down to win her second consecutive Section II individual tennis title last season as a freshman. Cuomo is competing this fall as the No. 1 singles player for the newly combined Schenectady/Mohonasen team.
SYDNEY SORBELLO (BETHLEHEM)
The Boston University commit was among the standouts at the Section II swimming and diving championships as a junior in 2018 with wins in the 200 IM and 100 free, and an anchor leg on a triumphant 200 free relay. Sorbello went on to help the Eagles' relay team place second at the state meet.
HUNTER EDWARDS (COBLESKILL-RICHMONDVILLE)
A punishing tailback for the Bulldogs' Section II Class B runner-up football team, Edwards piled up 1,272 yards and scored 13 touchdowns in a big junior effort. The 2018 Reinfurt Division Offensive Player of the Year also excelled at linebacker.
SOFIA CASSANO (SCHALMONT)
The top returning scorer for the Section II Class B runner-up Sabres, Cassano scored 24 goals and added 20 assists in a big junior season. The Bryant University-bound forward earned a spot on the all-state second team for her efforts.