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Cyclones blowing into Utah

June 16, 2002|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

The mission given to the Washington County Cyclones under-14 volleyball team in November was a simple, yet challenging one: Qualify for the national tournament.

Mission accomplished.

Three weeks from now, the Cyclones - based in the Washington County Junior Girls Volleyball Club and comprised of all county kids - will board a plane for Salt Lake City to compete against 63 other club teams from the United States and Canada at Nationals.

"They're definitely looking forward to going to Salt Lake City," Cyclones head coach Chuck Weaver said. "They realize this is an opportunity of a lifetime, to be able to play at this level."

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The Cyclones seized the opportunity by winning the Chesapeake Regionals tournament in Washington two months ago. Since that win, they've been preparing for their trip cross-country, both by finding sponsors and raising funds to help pay for the trip, and also with continued practice on the court.

"I think the goal is to go out and play good ball so we can come back without any regrets," Weaver said. "When at the national level, the skill level of the west coast and mideast teams is much greater. The east region is probably the weakest. ... My expectation is to elevate their level. When your opponents are better than you, you play better."

Throughout the season, the Cyclones have elevated their game whenever needed, compiling a 34-12 record and winning three other tournaments - the Columbia Invitational in Columbia, Md.; the Favor Spring Fling in Frederick, Md.; and the MVSA Club Championships in Rockville, Md. - in addition to the Chesapeake Regionals.

"The improvements from the first tournament until now have definitely been noticable," Weaver said.

The Cyclones are led by third-year captains Jessica Ambrose and Chelsea Weaver and second-year players Kenzie Bowen, Kim Snavely, Tracy Hinkle and Lia VanCleave. Their experience has been a guiding light for the Cyclones all season long.

"They gel very well on the court and off the court," Weaver said. "All of them are very close and they stay in touch with each other."

Newcomers Kasi Harris, Emily Malott, Caitlin Nicewarner and Sammi Snodderly have learned on the fly and have developed into steady contributors.

"That's the key to the team," Weaver said. "When (the captains) are not stepping up, someone usually does. I find when we're playing great ball, that's because everybody's mental attitude is where it needs to be and everyone picks up for everyone else."

Three weeks ago, the Cyclones finished 17th out of 32 teams at the East Coast Championships, held at Penn State. Weaver points to the need to maintain focus over a multi-day tournament as the team's biggest challenge.

"We need to work on keeping a consistent mental attitude for four days," Weaver said. "That's the hardest thing with a multi-day tournament."

But Weaver says the girls feel no extra pressure from the nearing trip to Salt Lake City.

"At this point in time, (they're relaxed)," Weaver said. "We're still (three) weeks out, so we'll see."

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