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Antietam volleyball title up for grabs

September 03, 2008|By DAN KAUFFMAN

Will it be Boonsboro? Williamsport? What about Clear Spring? Maybe Smithsburg?

Washington County's four MVAL Antietam volleyball teams all believe they have what it takes to be conference champions. All four have dreams of a Maryland Class 1A state title -- and all four have legitimate reasons to believe this is the year.

It's going to make for a riveting season.

"You always want good competition," Wildcats coach Emily Crabtree said. "You want to make sure you're playing the best, because when you win, you feel like you've accomplished something. There's really no front-runner this year, I think.

"It might be one of those, 'I beat you, you beat them, they beat the other team' sort of deals and we wind up in a four-team tie."

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Williamsport won the Antietam with a 5-0 record last year, with Boonsboro second at 4-1. But the Warriors flipped the script in the 1A West playoffs, defeating the Wildcats in five tense games to reach the state semifinals for the first time since 1985. Boonsboro went on to reach the state final before falling to South Carroll.

The Warriors waved good-bye to two All-County First Team performers -- setter Tara Garver and middle hitter Katie Gantz -- but have All-County Second Team outside hitter Alison Griffith back, as well as hitters Cortney Silvis and Brynn Arnone, setter Becca Demers and defensive specialist Kelsie Trumbull.

"There's no doubt in my mind we bring a lot to the table, and I expect us to be back at the top again," Boonsboro coach Amanda Parry said. "There's a lot of competition. I think Clear Spring could be one of the best teams. But knowing the plan of attack and the things we need to do to get ready, I definitely believe we can still be one of the top teams."

Williamsport is one of the most storied programs in the state, with 12 state titles -- including four straight from 2002 to 2005.

The Wildcats lost several accomplished players to graduation -- including All-County First Team outside hitter Hailee Growden, All-County Second Team middle hitter Katie Koontz and setters Christine Barnes and Lindsey Kneisley. But they return the county's most athletically gifted attacker in All-County First Team senior middle hitter Cayla Broadwater, and want to return to the state tournament after a two-year absence.

"I have some senior leadership and that's a good thing because I have three sophomores and a junior," Crabtree said. "It's going to be a learning experience for the young ones, and I hope they step up and do what we need them to do."

Boonsboro and Williamsport are the established powers of recent years, but it will be tough to keep Clear Spring and Smithsburg from breaking through to the top tier this year. Both the Blazers and Leopards have all their key players back and are ready to take the next step.

Clear Spring returns three All-MVAL Antietam first team performers in outside hitters Lindsay Lacy and Amanda Jenkins and middle hitter Emily Pinkham. With them leading the way, the Blazers may have the most diverse attack in the county.

"We're trying to stay very, very level, stay with fundamentals and stay calm, but the girls are so excited, there's a lot of intensity in the air up here," Blazers coach Kim Malphurs said. "All of our players can hit from everywhere, and that's scary when you play someone and they can come from every direction. It's tough to stop."

Smithsburg returns five players who earned conference or All-County honors last season -- middle hitters Colleen Black and Sara Rishell, outside hitter Nikki Siefert, setter Valerie Smith and defensive specialist Mollie Kieffer.

Boonsboro

The biggest question the Warriors face is, how do they replace such a splendid all-around performer like Tara Garver? Her serving, setting and attacking all were invaluable in Boonsboro's playoff run last year.

"I'm not too worried about filling her shoes. I think there are some girls who will step in and fill those roles," Parry said. "Tara is a tough player to replace, she was a great player in all aspects, but all the girls we have coming back will contribute in their own way."

Setter Becca Demers and defensive specialist Kelsie Trumbull will be pivotal pieces of this year's puzzle, because if the Warriors can consistently pass and set the ball, they have attackers -- especially Alison Griffith and Brynn Arnone -- who can do damage.

Broadfording

Last year's Mason Dixon Christian Conference tournament and Maryland Christian Schools tournament champions have their three top players back from a year ago -- All-County First Team defensive specialist Danielle DuBois, All-County Second Team middle hitter Hannah Young and All-MDCC second-team setter Rebecca Adams. The Lions expect to challenge Grace Academy for league honors again.

"I have two new outside hitters (Ariana Litten, Maegan Taylor), so that's going to be interesting," Broadfording coach Joe Cartwright said. "I'm hoping defense will be a strength, especially with DuBois, and Young is probably our most dominating hitter."

Clear Spring

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