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Area's top volleyball talent has Hawks ready to soar

June 15, 2006|by DAN KAUFFMAN

During each volleyball season, Hagerstown Community College coach Beth Domenico's main mission is to guide the Hawks to the NJCAA Division II national tournament. Once the season is over, her focus shifts to signing the best Tri-State area high school seniors.

In the last seven months, Domenico has hit the jackpot. Twice.

Fresh off a 44-2 season and a run to the national quarterfinals last November, Domenico has the fast-improving Hawks standing on the doorstep of even greater things, thanks to her best recruiting class yet. Ten of last season's best area seniors - including 2005 Herald-Mail Player of the Year Sammi Snodderly of Williamsport and three-time All-Area First Team member Jessica Ambrose of Boonsboro - will wear HCC's green-and-white colors.

"One of our first meetings when all of them were there, I overheard a parent saying, 'If you handpicked them from the county, you couldn't do better than this,'" Domenico said. "We are really excited for the talent and the numbers we have. Every one of them can walk on the court and play. ... We definitely see another great season in front of us."

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Six of the 10 recruits played for either Williamsport - which has won the last four Maryland Class 1A state titles - or Boonsboro, the Wildcats' main rival over the last three years.

Wildcats setter Lea Drury - an All-Area Second Team selection in 2005 - and middle hitter Lauren Brown join Snodderly at HCC.

"They already know how winning feels," Domenico said. "They can compare (winning state titles) to nationals. Competition-wise, nationals is going to be more difficult than states, because they'll be playing girls that could go to NCAA Division I (schools), but being part of a winning program is just going to help them tremendously."

Warriors outside hitter Caitlyn Selby - a 2004 All-Area First Team selection - and defensive specialist Kim Snavely join Ambrose.

"Kim, Caitlyn, Jess and Sammi played on the same club team," Domenico said. "There's already a bond there with them. When I was playing in high school, we never played with girls from any other high schools, so their playing together is a real benefit. They had a rivalry, but they have a friendship also. They loved playing together, so I know that's going to help."

Joining those six are Smithsburg graduates Kayla Martin (setter) and Molly Powell (defensive specialist), South Hagerstown middle hitter China Miller and Greencastle defensive specialist Mandi Mentzer.

With outside hitters Karey Toms (Waynesboro) and Amanda Conway (Smithsburg) returning for their sophomore seasons, Domenico will enter her sixth season with her deepest team yet. As a result, practices will now have the same competitive spirit as matches, as players battle for starting spots.

"In my five years of coaching, we never had the capacity to yank someone out because of small numbers," Domenico said. "That's going to help step up practice and how we run practice. Instead of having to bring people in, we have a practice team every time. ... The toughest thing is going to be playing all the girls. All of them will be playing."

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