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Bachtell roars back from injury

September 09, 1998|By DAN SPEARS

The roar of the Smithsburg crowd said it all. They were cheering on a practice swing.

Smithsburg senior hitter Rachel Bachtell pounded that first ball, then returned to the court six months after knee surgery and led the Leopards in kills and service points in a high-tension 17-15, 15-17, 15-8, 15-8 season-opening victory over North Hagerstown Tuesday night.

"In warmups, I thought I'd be a little bit nervous," Bachtell said, "but ... my brothers came and talked to me and gave me a lot of confidence."

The confidence showed from the beginning of the match, when she got Smithsburg's first nine points of Game 1, and closed Game 4 - and the match - with a kill.

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"When I played, I wanted to pretend it wasn't there," Bachtell said. "And I didn't, I didn't even notice. It would slide down sometimes, but I just wanted to come back really bad."

It was Bachtell's first action in any sport since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee last February during basketball season. The rehab kept her off any playing field until the first day of practice this fall, but kept her mind on getting revenge from last season.

"North is so good," Bachtell said. "They swept us last year, then they beat us in a tournament, so we wanted this bad."

Games 1 and 2 were mirror images: one team falling behind big early, only to survive after being down game point and win the game with an ace.

But games 3 and 4 were all Smithsburg after a 5-0 run by the Hubs to open Game 3.

"We came out with a lot of intensity, and we wanted it really bad," Bachtell said. "We got Game 1, and they came and took Game 2 fair and square.

"In games 3 and 4, we got really mad. We just came out and said we were going to take this."

That focus was too much for the Hubs.

"We lost our concentration, got a little tired," North coach Tracy McKinsey said. "Overall we played well. We knew coming in we had to play a flawless game, and we made too many errors."

And the Leopards took advantage, thanks to a new preseason regimen by coach Jim Klein. Instead of putting in all his plays now, his team focused on conditioning in August so they wouldn't run out of gas at the end of a long match.

Nothing like testing your theory in the first one.

"We conditioned a lot more, and spent less time on the fundamentals," Klein said. "It looked like we got our game legs as we went on tonight."

But in this case, less was more. As North tried to key on Bachtell and Carey Brennan (14 kills, nine blocks), other players stepped to the front, especially Kelly (nine kills) and Heather (three kills) Ashley.

"It gives us a chance to mix up a little more," Bachtell said. "We get a chance to use other players, like Kelly Ashley, and other teams can't read us as well."

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