The phone book ads tout "9 out of 10," and county volleyball playersplan to emulate the Yellow Pages with that kind of serving percentage.
Serving is just one element that's coming together for county teams in what promises to be a competitive season. Here is a look at the county teams:
FRANCIS SCOTT KEY EAGLES
Leo Totten begins his first year as head coach at Francis Scott Key with some promising newcomers. The JV team he coached last year was 13-2, while the varsity was the Class 1A Region II champion.
Seniors Tina Hahn and Mindy Kenney return, and they'll get plenty of help from a trio of unrelated Smiths. Junior Shelley Smith "is one of our better hitters," while junior Tina Smith "will be one of our primary setters," and sophomore Amber Smith will be setting and hitting.
Middle hitter Kristi Stambaugh isn't named Smith but she is tall, adding 6 feet of height to the team.
"We do have some pretty good jumpers, and they're quick," Totten said. He's also pleased with serving; in a scrimmage last week, 93 percent of the serves were in and 31 percent of those were aces.
"They're great kids," Totten enthused."They're a lot of fun and they work hard. It'll be a great season."
Totten must instill a more aggressive style of play in his newcomers.
"I'm trying to tell them varsity is a big jump in competition," he said. "We're going to try to have a little bit more of a varied attack. We have to play much more aggressively."
Since it's in theMonocacy Valley Athletic League, Key has to face Williamsport, Smithsburg and Boonsboro high schools from Washington County, which has a tradition of tough teams.
The Lions of coach Helen Derwin look exceptionally strong with four returning seniors -- Meredith McCullin, Kelly Foreman, Patti Bouver and Laura Hennessey -- and an undefeated junior varsity to provide plenty of fresh blood. And height, with Foreman leading the way at 6 feet 1, should not be a problem, either.
Derwin says the serving looks good and she's looking forward to a team with six good setters.
"That's going to be real nice," she said. "I could go to a 5-1 (alignment) this year, but I'm going to stay with a 6-2. The girls know where they've got to be and what they've got to do, and they're comfortable with that."
Despite having plenty of depth, Derwin worries about what will happen when her team comes up against perennial powerhouse North Carroll.
NORTH CARROLL PANTHERS
Veteran coach Linda Richards is characteristically low-key as to North Carroll's chances.
"Even when we're 14-1 and 15-0, I think 'We're not going to make it this year,' " she said.
She'll be looking to returning seniors Christi Lough, whose consistent serving is worthy of a "9 out 10" sticker, and to Shelly Woodburn. Although Woodburn is only 5-3 1/2, Richards said simply, "She can hit."
Returning senior Jen Rothlingshofer is 5-7 with excellent jumpingability and 5-10 returning senior Jen Cooper provides height.
Richards said she needs to work on setting but predicted, "My kids couldcome together with a lot of heart."
SOUTH CARROLL CAVALIERS
Over at South Carroll, coach Debbie Barnes will be counting on seniors Stacy Buck, Susan Barnes, Brooxxe Bly and Amanda Buchanan.
Of the 5-9Buck, she said, "I'll be using her as a setter this year and counting on her to do a lot of my front row."
Last year's junior varsity,which plays a 4-2 game, didn't win once; so Barnes needs to indoctrinate them with the joys of the 6-2 and of winning. Bly is emerging asa team leader, which pleases Barnes, who knows her young team is in a rebuilding stage.
"They're improving every day and their attitude is great," she said, "But it's probably going to be a rough season."
But her young players can count one one thing: "They'll be seeing a lot of playing time."
The Owls can look forward to playing under coach Karol Brown again, who was undefeated for two years before she stopped coaching to spend some extra time with her young family.
"I haven't coached in two years," said Brown, "I want to get a feel for what the (players) know. They look pretty good in practice. All the girls have a hard overhand serve."
Brown saysshe plans to run a 6-2, with senior Stephanie Owings and junior Sherri Schmitz handling the setting. Seniors Jackie Harmon, Leeann Godwinand Karen Walker lend experience to the team.
Brown knows what her first priority will be.
"Our first hit is the weakest," she said. "We need to get it to the center of the court to keep the setter from running all over the place."
But Brown is blessed with plenty of depth and a matching attitude.
"The girls have worked very hard;they've done everything I've asked them to."
WMC GREEN TERRORS
Western Maryland College's Jolene Jordan Hoover also has a young team. She doesn't have a single senior back from the 33-8 team that won itssection in the Middle Atlantic Conference last year.