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Smithsburg wins state volleyball title

November 18, 2000

Smithsburg wins state volleyball title



By BOB PARASILITI / Staff Writer


CATONSVILLE, Md. - The Smithsburg volleyball team is a lot of different things on the court.

It is tall, dominant and practically unbeatable. The one thing the Leopards aren't is party animals.

Smithsburg rolled to its second Maryland Class 1A volleyball title in three years on Saturday, dispatching of Rising Sun 15-4, 15-11, 15-6 in about one hour's time at the Community College of Baltimore County-Catonsville.

The celebration that followed was quick and subdued. The trophy presentation was quiet and respectful. Winning this state title went off like a surprise party the guest of honor was aware of before it started.

"We knew from the very beginning (of the season) we were going to win the state title," said middle hitter Heather Ashley, who finished with 16 kills and seven blocks in the final. "We had a lot of weapons and we used them all. This was basically a formality."

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Smithsburg marched into Catonsville with a swagger that only a Washington County volleyball team can bring into a state championship.

The Leopards are the 13th county team in the last 17 years to wear the state crown. Smithsburg has three of those titles, Williamsport has seven, Clear Spring has two and Boonsboro has one.

It was the second state title for Ashley and setter Jenelle Stouffer, who were members of the 1998 team that also beat Rising Sun.

"I think after that big (third) match with Williamsport, there was more reality that we could do it," Smithsburg coach Jim Klein said. "Williamsport is in the upper echelon of teams in the state. After playing them, this was kind of a letdown."

Even though Smithsburg came down Interstate 70 to get to the finals, the road to the championship took a detour through Williamsport.

The Leopards won 51 of the 57 games they played this season. All six of the lost games - and their only lost match - came at the hands of the Wildcats.

Smithsburg struggled and toyed with Rising Sun at the same time. First the Leopards overpowered the Tigers and, when the team began to falter, Smithsburg adjusted to outsmart them.

When the powerful spikes of Ashley, Michelle Feiser and Katy Powell went awry, the Leopards turned to finesse to slip past Rising Sun. The light hits made the Tigers a soft touch.

The change of style made Smithsburg the envy of Rising Sun coach Rich Wilson.

"They are a great team with a great attack," Wilson said. "With their great hitters, we needed to play defense like we have all year.

"But we also needed good passes to get to our hitters. We couldn't get the passes to our offense. Give credit to their offense," he said.

Wilson spent most of the season following Smithsburg and Williamsport through written accounts of the teams on The Herald-Mail Web site.

"Right at the beginning of the season, I bookmarked that site," he said. "I knew that by the end of the season, either Smithsburg or Williamsport would be here."

The Leopards didn't disappoint. They made it and they won it, just like they planned.

Meanwhile, Washington County volleyball is setting the standard for others to follow.

"Washington County has a great club program which helps get players ready and interested for high school," Wilson said. "My target is to have my team become as good as Smithsburg."

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