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Hawks soar to nationals

November 16, 2005|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown Community College volleyball team has rolled to a 49-2 record, swept through the Maryland JuCo Conference and Region XX without losing a match - more impressively, without losing a single game - and qualified for its third consecutive NJCAA Division II national tournament.

This week's mission for the Hawks is clear: Earn some overdue national respect.

For all of this season's accomplishments, HCC is seeded 10th out of the 12 teams converging on Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College beginning Thursday. They are ranked No. 17 in Division II despite having the best winning percentage in the nation.

In their two previous trips to nationals, the Hawks have zero wins - and it's not going to be any easier this time, as HCC faces fourth-ranked and host Scottsdale (28-5) on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. and ninth-ranked Kishwaukee (Ind., 31-10) at noon Friday.

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Is this the year the Hawks break through pool play and advance to the eight-team single-elimination playoffs?

"I am a little more optimistic because they have a little different mentality," HCC coach Beth Domenico said. "This team knows how to win. They have a competitive edge."

The Hawks do have a victory over Genessee (N.Y.), a highly regarded squad that went 44-8 this year and also advanced to nationals, on their resumes.

"After beating Genessee, we know that's what the caliber of play is going to be," said setter Staci Grabill. "We have confidence we can win."

A fast start is a must for the Hawks - something Domenico has been stressing since August.

"This whole season, we've been drilling it into their heads," she said. "At nationals, they cannot have a warm-up game. They have to have intensity from the start."

The Hawks have four players ranked in the national top 50 in at least one statistical category. Grabill is seventh in assists, averaging 11.16 per game. Savanah Wetzel is 11th in digs (5.89) and Karey Toms 41st (4.49), while Lindsey Plotner ranks 26th in kills (3.65) and Toms 36th (3.39).

HCC will need its attack to be at full strength at nationals - and that means everyone has to have success at the net, not just Plotner and Toms.

"As a setter, I have so many more options this year," Grabill said. "I'm confident in every single hitter. I know we can put the ball down. Katie (Spoonire) can find any hole on the court, her placement is unbelievable. Brittany (Meadows) and Amanda (Conway) put the ball down when it needs to be put down."

Defensively, Wetzel and Toms carry the Hawks and make their transition game run smoothly.

"The defense is the heart of our team, and it is a lot better," Grabill said.

"I think the main difference in our team this year is our ball control," Domenico said. "When things get chaotic, we just calm down and play our game. I think people down there will recognize that."

Still, the question remains: Is 2005 the year HCC breaks out and becomes a major player at the national level?

"I don't think we've peaked yet," Domenico said.

That could be a very good sign.




They're nationwide



The Hagerstown Community College volleyball team, ranked 17th in NJCAA Division II, heads to Scottsdale, Ariz., to begin play in the national tournament Thursday against host Scottsdale Community College. HCC enters as the 10th seed in the 12-team tournament, sporting a 49-2 record and the Region XX championship.

The Hawks' roster, with name, year and position:

Lindsey PlotnerSo.MH

Staci GrabillSo.S

Katie SpoonireSo.MH

Savanah WetzelSo.DS

Brittany MeadowsSo.OH

Karey Toms Fr.OH

Amanda ConwayFr.OH

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