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Hubs ready to set sun on dream year

November 16, 2007|By DAN KAUFFMAN

Leave it to one of North Hagerstown's six senior volleyball players to sum up the Hubs' remarkable 2007 season.

"Who'd have thought North High would be playing for a state title at the beginning of the season? No one," middle hitter Minta Lovell said. "Everyone doubted us, maybe even ourselves, but we worked hard, got better and here we are."

North (18-1) faces Rising Sun (15-3) - the Maryland Class 1A state champions in 2006 who moved up to 2A this year - on Saturday at noon with the 2A title on the line at University of Maryland's Ritchie Coliseum.

North reached the Maryland Class 2A West final in 2006, but lost several talented seniors to graduation, including All-Area Second Team outside hitter Brooke Powell and All-County Second Team middle hitter Kierra Nelson, now playing for Hagerstown Community College.

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Senior middle hitter Kate Zimmer, the 2006 Herald-Mail Player of the Year, and senior setter Hannah Boward, an All-County Second Team selection last year, carried the Hubs early this season while marching toward career milestones - Zimmer's 1,000th kill and Boward's 1,000th assist. Zimmer was averaging 5.13 kills and 1.08 blocks per game and Boward 7.59 assists through last week.

But in their run to the state final - including hard-earned victories over Middletown in five games in the 2A West final and River Hill in four games in the 2A state semifinals - the Hubs' supporting cast has made the difference, especially the other four seniors in Lovell, Jen Bowlus, Amelia Plank and Karli Powers.

"This is the first time I've been on a team without any girlie conflict at all," said Zimmer, who on Wednesday signed to play for Maryland starting next fall. "We're coming together on the court, and I have to give the credit to the defense. A lot of times I see a ball get hit and I turn around expecting it to be on the floor, but it's in the air."

"The girls are very excited, they've been really pumped up for the playoffs," North coach Megan Crawford said. "The seniors especially, they have gotten along the best they have all year these last couple of weeks."

Lovell has become the Hubs' primary attacking option when rotations force Zimmer to the back row.

"I've progressed a lot from the beginning of the season, as has everyone else," Lovell said. "It takes a whole team to be able to do this."

Bowlus' six kills in the final three games against Middletown gave North a spark. But for the most part, it's the defense of Bowlus, Plank and Powers that serves as the final piece in the Hubs' championship puzzle.

"All season long, we haven't had a block because we're so short aside from Kate, so those of us in the back row are used to being low and on our toes," Bowlus said.

"Our coaches have been hitting down at us from up on the officials' stand, and it's really helped," Plank said. "The rest of the team is trying so hard, you just want to get to the ball, get it up and to them."

"I'm fortunate to have a couple quick girls back there, and they're fearless," Crawford said. "They'll dive on the floor, and they're scrappy."

North overcame the challenge of River Hill's Maddi Lee, a 6-foot-2 senior who will room with Zimmer at Maryland next year. Now the Hubs must overcome Rising Sun's double-trouble attack of senior Selena Ortega-Marvel (3.7 kills, 0.86 blocks per game) and junior Lindsey Monger (4.6 kills, 1.0 blocks) to put the dream ending on a dream season.

"They're very beatable," Zimmer said. "They're a very good team, they have a very good defense and good hitters. But I think we can do it. We're playing well defensively, and everyone played their best match all year (Tuesday)."

"We know if we can pull (Tuesday's victory) off, we can do anything," Boward said. "We've bonded together, and there's no stopping us. ... If we come out strong, it should be an interesting, enthralling game."

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