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Williamsport doesn't wait to make statement

September 14, 2007|By DAN KAUFFMAN

For a long time, the words "Williamsport volleyball" and "disappointment" never came close to one another.

Then in last year's Maryland Class 1A West final in Oakland, Md., Southern Garrett brought an end to the Wildcats' run of four straight state titles.

With disappointment comes a new source of motivation for Williamsport to erase the memories of 2006 and write another chapter in its storied state tournament history.

"I think they're hungry for it," Williamsport coach Emily Crabtree said on Wednesday. "They know how disappointing it was in that regional final. Up until then, it was a given that they went to the region final and won it. So now they know they have to work harder to bring the title to Washington County. Feeling that disappointment is making them hungrier to go after it this year."

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With most of their starters back from last year, the Wildcats are making the most of their balance and depth, developing several different looks to give opponents a lot to deal with.

"We are doing some different things, but I don't want to give it all away," Crabtree said. "I think we're quicker and we're trying a variety of sets, some quicks, some slides - things we didn't do any of last year."

The Wildcats made a statement in their first match of 2007 - a four-game victory over Liberty, which has a storied history of its own. The Lions have advanced to the state semifinals each of the past six years and won the Class 2A state title in 2003 and '04.

"I think it was a huge confidence boost," Crabtree said. "When you beat a team of that caliber and play as good as we played, it's got to make them feel good.

"It's a matter of execution. We know we can (win another state title), it's just execution. I just hope we're not peaking at the beginning of the season."

Eagles back atop Panhandle

Early in this decade, Hedgesville dominated the Eastern Panhandle, racking up several sectional and regional titles and the West Virginia Class AAA state title in 2002.

But in 2005 and '06, Musselman had the Eagles' number. The Applemen won all eight matches against Hedgesville in those two years - including the sectional and regional titles each year - and lost just five of the 29 games played between the rivals.

So far this year, things are swinging back in the Eagles' favor.

Hedgesville is 2-0 against Musselman in 2007, defeating the Applemen in four games at Musselman on Sept. 4, then pulling out a three-game victory in the best-of-3 final of the Clear Spring Invitational four days later. The Eagles won two pool play games against Musselman earlier in the tournament.

"The girls really feel they have a good team and have a better chance than the last couple years facing them," Hedgesville coach Lori Zick said. "Musselman is an exciting game, and they went into it believing they had the upper hand, and that plays into it, the mental game."

The Eagles' season has been defined so far by a returning star - 2006 All-Area First Team selection Lindsay Hadley, one of the best players in West Virginia - and a new starter in setter Devin Kesecker, filling the role of Virginia Rogus, who graduated.

"(Lindsay) has absolutely taken control of the emotions on the court, pumping them up and relaxing them, and that comes from playing four years at this level," Zick said. "She has stepped into that leadership role. ... Devin never got a lot of time on the court (last year), so it was trial by fire, but she works hard and she wants to be out there. We've been asking her to do a lot, she is asked to do something more each game, and so far she has."

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