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Prep Volleyball Preview

September 05, 2007|By DAN KAUFFMAN

When Williamsport fell in the Maryland Class 1A West final and North Hagerstown lost in the Class 2A West title game last year, it marked the first time since 1982 that Washington County was not represented at the Maryland state volleyball semifinals.

Expect a new streak to begin in 2007.

The Wildcats - who won four straight Class 1A state titles prior to 2006 - return most of its core group. The Hubs have 2006 Player of the Year Kate Zimmer back for her senior season. And don't count out the other county teams in the new-look MVAL Antietam.

"All of the county teams scare me," Williamsport coach Emily Crabtree said. "Washington County always has some good volleyball, and we have to be on our toes no matter who we play."

While All-Area Second Team outside hitter Jessica Bennett has graduated, the Wildcats welcome back Hailee Growden - herself an All-Area Second Team outside hitter - as well as All-County First Team setter Christine Barnes and All-County Second Team middle hitter Cayla Broadwater. Katie Koontz and Brittany Malott add depth.

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"We should be (better)," Crabtree said. "I'm hoping we come together as a team at the right time. We had two tough scrimmages against Hedgesville and Chambersburg and we held our own against them. Our setters are going to try some quick stuff. We should be coming from all angles."

The Hubs lose All-Area Second Team outside hitter Brooke Powell and All-County Second Team middle hitter Kierra Nelson. Zimmer - who averaged 4.42 kills, 2.17 blocks and 4.01 digs in 2006 and will head to the University of Maryland in 2008 - should have plenty of opportunities with a pair of All-County Second Team setters, Hannah Boward and Karli Powers - setting things up.

Boonsboro tied for third behind the Wildcats and Hubs in the Antietam last year. The Warriors lose All-Area First Team middle hitter Jerica Hewett and have a new coach in Andrea Perry, but they return All-Area Second Team selection Tara Garver, a versatile player who can finish points or set up others, and All-County Second Team hitter Katie Gantz.

"We're looking for high intensity," Perry said. "I rally do think this is a team that has a lot of potential. This is one of the years to go after a state championship with the talent we have."

Clear Spring finished 8-8 last year, but the Blazers earned victories over both Williamsport and Boonsboro and they return nearly their entire team - including All-Area Second Team outside hitter Amanda Jenkins, All-County Second Team setter Katie Blickenstaff, setter Emily Steinacker and outside hitter Lindsay Lacy.

Smithsburg loses All-Area Second Team outside hitter Jenny Nalley. The Leopards return four starters, including All-County Second Team setter Valerie Smith and outside hitter Nikki Siefert, and their two young middle hitters - sophomore Colleen Black and freshman Sarah Rishell - are both dangerous at the net.

"What I really think is there are a lot of good teams in our region that can go all the way and win a state title," Leopards coach Rachel Bachtell said. "We're trying to bring the tradition back to Smithsburg. Last year, we just couldn't win the big games."

South Hagerstown joins North in the MVAL Piedmont, including Frederick, Middletown and Walkersville. The Rebels lost All-Area Second Team outside hitter Chelsea Weaver, but return four starters, including All-County First Team setter Brittany Hyatt and middle hitter Mar'ke Cosley.

"The biggest difference this year is we're more evenly balanced than we have been in the past," South coach Chuck Weaver said. "The big thing I like is they play as a team."

Eastern Panhandle

Let's be honest. There's the undercard, and there's the Main Event. In the Panhandle, the Main Event is Musselman vs. Hedgesville, and everything else is the undercard.

While the Applemen have had the better of their rivalry with the Eagles in recent years, fortunes could be shifting back Hedgesville's way. The Eagles defeated Musselman in four games Tuesday night.

Hedgesville lost a pair of All-Area First Team performers - outside hitter Emily Kisner and setter Virginia Rogus. Four other starters return, including First Team outside hitter Lindsay Hadley. Outside hitters Katie Rude and Katey Sheehan and libero Krista Plumer round out Hedgesville's experienced group.

"We've looked pretty good. I'm pleased with how our two scrimmages went," Eagles coach Lori Zick said. "Our blocking is stronger this year, and we have some height with some new girls. We've been trying a new defense and we'll see how that goes."

Musselman lost more talent than any Tri-State team, with All-Area First Team outside hitters Alyssa Custer and Megan Holmes, Second Team middle hitter Stephanie Wood and libero Danielle Felicio graduating. First Team setter Chelsea Wheaton is back, along wth middle hitter Katie Kees and outside hitter Erica Manor.

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