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Robertson reunites with defending champs

September 20, 2002|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

Every now and then, Smithsburg first-year volleyball coach Alexa Robertson probably believes she's hearing an echo on the Leopards' bench. For good reason, too.

Robertson played at Smithsburg from 1992 through 1995, and came back this season to replace Jim Klein, who stepped down as the Leopards' coach after a state-championship season last year. Now, the words escaping from Robertson's mouth are often the same ones she heard as a player.

"As a coach, you can see things you just didn't want to see as a player," Robertson said. "I hear myself saying things coaches said to me, and now I understand why they were saying that."

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Robertson, who graduated from Smithsburg in 1996, went on to play for two years at Hagerstown Community College and also played at Trevecca Nazarene University in Knoxville, Tenn., where she earned her bachelor's degree in 2000.

After earning a master's degree from Frostburg State University earlier this year, Robertson found herself at the controls of one of the most successful high school volleyball programs in the state - her alma mater's.

"It's a great experience," Robertson said. "I know going into the season I felt overwhelmed in that I had to fill some big shoes. It's a great challenge, I'm loving every minute of it."

Only six years removed from walking Smithsburg's halls as a student, Robertson still relates with the trials and tribulations her players go through.

"I see them going through the same emotions and mentalities on the court that I did," Robertson said. "I can give them advice that I used to get for the same things."

Despite losing several starters from last year's team, Smithsburg (No. 3 Herald-Mail poll) is off to an 8-0 start, including winning the North Hagerstown Tournament Sept. 7.

"I believe the thought in the county was that Smithsburg lost so much talent that they wouldn't be as good a team this year," Robertson said. "I think we've proven through the first couple weeks this year that we're a good volleyball team."

Eagles soar early



Hedgesville, which reached last year's W.Va. AAA semifinals, has made a statement to the rest of the state early that the Eagles intend on bigger things this season.

Led by five returning starters - seniors Ashley Copenhaver, Tracey Regalbuto, Keri Jackson and Tiffany Burkhart, and junior Lauren Pitzer - Hedgesville (10-1, No. 1 Herald-Mail poll) won the Woodrow Wilson Invitatonal tournament two weekends ago, defeating defending state champion Capital in the process.

"It starts off making us aware we can play with that caliber of team," Eagles coach Susan Davis said. "We're not somewhere lost in the pack, we can play and we can compete with them."

Hedgesville went 3-1 in pool play and avenged its only loss - to Parkersburg South - in the championship game, showing a resiliency Davis says is typical of her team.

"My kids have always been, and this group particularly, has always been fighters," Davis said last Wednesday. "They've never quit from the get-go since they were sophomores."

Although the Eagles haven't discussed the possibility of a run through the state tournament yet this season, Davis said the expectations are understood.

"It's not anything we've talked about," Davis said. "Usually we do that, but it's more after a third of the season is gone. We talk about individual goals and team goals. (But) even though it's not voiced, I know it's there."

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