County's eyes focused firmly on Leopards

September 03, 2009|By DAN KAUFFMAN/

It's been eight years since Smithsburg's volleyball team last won the Class 1A West championship -- and added the state title, to boot.

The Leopards are poised to end that streak in 2009.

Smithsburg returns most of the players from last year's squad which shared the MVAL Antietam title with Williamsport and Clear Spring. Among them are All-Area First Team junior middle hitter Sara Rishell, and two All-County First Team players in senior middle hitter Colleen Black and junior setter Taylor Belella.

The Leopards are the team to beat in the Antietam this year -- which now includes North and South Hagerstown. But Smithsburg coach Rachel Brashear is downplaying her team's new role as favorites.

"We've scrimmaged some county teams," Brashear said. "Clear Spring, they're going to be tough. Williamsport came to our tri-scrimmage and I felt they were very scrappy. That's not going to be a walk in the park. I don't think Boonsboro's going to be a walk in the park. South, Chuck (Weaver) gets the best out of those girls every year.


"On paper, we look good, but it comes down to working as a team and pushing ourselves, and other teams in the county have a good shot. The girls know they have some talent, but the county's good."

Brashear said the focus will be on the defensive side -- where the Leopards lost All-Area Second Team honoree Mollie Kieffer to graduation.

"Molly was not only a great defender, she was a great leader," Brashear said. "That's a spot we're looking to fill, but we have some kids who are up to the challenge. I'm confident we're going to find consistent players."

It's been four years since Williamsport won Washington County's last MPSSAA volleyball state title. Believe it or not, that's the county's longest dry spell since 1975 to 1980 -- the first six years state titles were awarded. The Wildcats have 12 titles since 1981, Smithsburg has five, Clear Spring has two and Boonsboro has one.


After the Warriors' run to the Class 1A state final in 2007, last season was one of promise. But it all fell apart on Boonsboro, which finished 5-10.

Coach Andrea Parry says the chemistry of this year's team will be better. A strong group of seniors -- led by All-County Second Team outside hitter Alison Griffith -- will lead the way. Setter Rebecca Demers was an MVAL Antietam honorable mention pick a year ago, and middle hitter Cortney Silvis and defensive specialist Macy Fuscsick will play key roles.


Joe Cartwright is living every coach's dream. The Lions went 18-3 and won MDCC and Maryland Christian State Tournament titles last year, and they have everybody back.

Where to start? Senior Danielle DuBois, an All-Area First Team honoree, is the best defensive specialist in the county. Senior middle hitter Hannah Young averaged almost four kills per game last year to make the All-County Second Team. Senior setter Rebecca Adams averaged more than seven assists per game and also made the All-County Second Team. Senior outside hitter Charlotte Worsfold adds another weapon.

Clear Spring

Kim Malphurs' team lost quite a few talented players to graduation, but the Blazers are not totally gutted. Malphurs says this team can be more versatile than last year's squad, even without All-Area First Team honoree Amanda Jenkins and All-County First Team selection Emily Pinkham.

They still have All-County Second Team outside hitter Lindsay Lacy and two skilled juniors -- setter Megan Micco and middle hitter Lily Pinkham -- so the offense should be solid. Senior middle hitter Hannah House adds another attacking option, and senior libero Breanne Purdham will take control of the defense.

Grace Academy

Coach Diana Serafini has guided the Knights to MDCC and Maryland Christian State Tournament success in the past, and she'll be in full teaching mode with this year's young group.

Two seniors -- setter Jamie Shurnitski (who can also play the outside hitter spot and will be asked to do both) and outside hitter Erica Null -- will lead the way. Junior Victoria Broadwater will double up as an outside hitter and defensive specialist, and sophomore Amanda Hall will be the primary middle hitter.


First-year coach Laura Baker won't have to build from the ground up. Though they went 3-14 a year ago, the Panthers return three seniors -- outside hitter Briana Swisher, setter Hannah Creek and defensive specialist Sienna Sink -- and should be better this year.

Baker has high hopes for junior middle hitter Maureen Leady, a 6-foot newcomer who could be a solid attacking threat.

Heritage Academy

The Eagles finished 12-7 in 2008, and despite the loss of MDCC first-team middle hitter Morgan McIntire, they should be in the top half of the league standings again.

Senior outside hitters Bri Dorsey and Rebekah Clarke lead the attack, with junior outside hitter Caroline Clarke and freshman middle hitter Tara Stamper adding depth. Sophomore Callie Butts will run the offense from her setter spot.

North Hagerstown

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