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Smithburg meets Oakland Mills in semis

November 13, 2000|By CURT HORNBECKER / Staff Correspondent

Smithburg meets Oakland Mills in semis



SMITHSBURG - Jim Klein will admit that he's prone to changing his mind from time to time, and that's certainly a fact that pleases his Smithsburg volleyball team.

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Three years ago last week, after the Leopards were swept in the Class 1A Regional finals by Glenelg, Klein announced to the team that he would likely be resigning to dedicate more time to his family.

Since that time, Klein's teams have gone 46-7, including a state championship in 1998.

This season, Smithsburg - ranked No. 2 in the Herald-Mail poll - is just two victories away from duplicating that feat. The first test come tonight at 8 when the Leopards face Oakland Mills (13-5) in the Maryland Class 1A semifinals at Essex Community College.

"I gave very serious consideration to (resigning) in '97," said Klein after his club defeated Williamsport in the South regional championship Saturday to advance to the state semifinals. "You have to understand that losing that Glenelg match three years ago was like losing a piece of my heart. I felt like I had let the kids down."

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None of the players on this years team played for the varsity in '97, but several had heard that he might resign, and are glad he changed his mind.

"I remember being disappointed," said senior hitter Melanie Whitt. "I wanted to have him as a coach. He knows all the right things to say."

"We wouldn't be where we are without him," said B.J. Greenwood, a senior defensive specialist. "It takes a little bit of insanity to make a great coach and his insanity is what drove us to get where we are."

Klein seemed genuinely surprised that his players were so complimentary.

"The words I used last week at practice were tyrrant, perfectionism and discipline," he said. "I don't want to win any popularity contest on the way to the finish. So, my perception is completely different from theirs because I try to be completely objective. When you're always looking at X's and O's, you miss the opportunity to enjoy the company of the athletes."

His players seem to understand and appreciate the amount of time he dedicates to the team.

"I don't think any other coach has worked as hard to get to this day and I don't think any other coach would have the faith in us that he has," said senior Jolee Warrenfeltz.

Obviously, Klein has coach other excellent teams at Smithsburg, but this one might just be better than all the others.

"This team is more talented and equally diversified than any team I've seen,'' Klein said. "The '98 team went seven or eight deep consistently and we went 11 deep (against Williamsport). It was just beautiful."

That depth might come in handy tonight against Oakland Mills. Playing against such opposition as perennial Class 2A champion Centennial, the Columbia-based school featured a pair of tough middle hitters in their sweep to the state semifinals.

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