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Hawks' national ranking, respect fortified by Kellogg

Hawks' national ranking, respect fortified by Kellogg

September 18, 2007|By DAN KAUFFMAN

A ranking, in its truest sense, is a measure of respect.

For the last several years, Beth and James Domenico have slowly but surely built up the Hagerstown Community College volleyball team. By winning the Region XX Tournament each of the past four years, the Hawks have qualified for the NJCAA Division II national tournament - though they've never been considered national title contenders.

That's all changing this season.

The Hawks (17-1, 5-0 Maryland JuCo) opened 2007 by winning the prestigious Kellogg Tournament in Battle Creek, Mich., for the first time, and have kept soaring. Monday's 30-15, 30-25, 30-14 victory over Montgomery/Rockville extended HCC's winning streak to 16 matches, during which the Hawks have won 42 straight games.

The Hawks are ranked ninth in Division II - the program's highest ranking ever - and may climb as the new poll is released today.

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"It means a lot to me, but just as a coach should be, I always want more," Beth Domenico said. "I want us to back up being that good. I want them to play to that."

The ranking - and respect - HCC has is a direct result of the Kellogg title, which the Hawks won by avenging a pool-play loss to fourth-ranked Illinois Central in the final.

"It was unreal to go up there and do what we did," said Caitlyn Selby, a sophomore outside hitter and Boonsboro graduate. "It brought me back to last year, when we stuck around to watch the championship game and we were in awe of those two teams. So to now be at the level those teams were at, I'm more proud of that than anything."

"We played so consistently that weekend that when we won, for me, it wasn't a huge high. Later, I realized what we did and how great it was, and I was so happy that that was the opening to our season," Domenico said. "It proved to the girls what a great team they have an opportunity to play with."

The Hawks are near the top of several Division II stats charts.

Freshman outside hitter Magda Tekiel - a native of Warsaw, Poland who arrived in the United States just a month ago - is second in kills per game at 5.02 and eighth in aces per game at 1.15. Sophomore setter Jessica Ambrose, another Boonsboro grad, is seventh in hitting efficiency nationally at 53.4 percent - Tekiel is ninth at 52.4.

HCC is deep, too - it's the best bench the Domenicos have had.

Five girls are averaging at least 1.82 kills per game, including Ashley Arentz (3.05), Nikki Wirth (1.97), Williamsport graduate Brittany Horn (1.82) and Selby (1.82), who's recovering from a knee injury. Sophomore Kim Snavely - the team's other Boonsboro graduate - is 45th in the nation in digs per game (4.51).

"This is the first year I can genuinely say I can put anybody in the game," Beth Domenico said. "This is the first time I have to think about when to put my bench players in. As coaches, we look at our bench and think, 'She should be out there.'"

While there's a lot of volleyball left to be played, the Hawks are prohibitive favorites to win the Region XX title again and reach the Division II national tournament. And this time, they're likely to be considered more than just a stepping stone on another team's march to a national title.

"(The Kellogg Tournament) was a huge confidence boost," Ambrose said. "We didn't expect to go up there and win the tournament. It helps with the confidence we have now. We actually have hopes of winning nationals instead of just playing well."

ยท Ambrose had 34 assists in the Hawks' victory Monday. Tekiel had 12 kills, Selby and Arentz each had six and Ambrose added five. Tekiel had four aces and Sammi Snodderly added three.

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