Tanissa Dorsey has a gift. Whenever, wherever she steps into an athletic competition, she becomes the girl most likely to excel.
"She's a phenomenal athlete," says Glenelg basketball coach Chuck Struhar,who in his 15 years at Glenelg has seen maybe a handful of girls whocompare with Dorsey, his explosive, 5-foot-6 senior point guard.
"She's a good basketball player, but her best sport is probably softball," he adds. "If she played field hockey, she'd be a good fieldhockey player. The same thing goes for volleyball. You watch her play, and you see she can do anything."
Struhar knows this firsthand.As Glenelg's softball coach, he persuaded Dorsey to try the sport last year. In her first season, all she did was earn First Team All-County honors by hitting .313, scoring 25 runs, stealing 31 bases and taking over third base at midseason like she owned it. She recorded 15 putouts, had 32 assists and made only five throwing errors.
"I hadno desire to hit a ball and run around bases," says Dorsey, who learned softball rules during the season, sometimes in the middle of games. "I wish I had played it more."
Dorsey has also dabbled in soccer. She tried playing goalie as a sophomore, performed well, skipped ayear, then played this year "to stay in shape for basketball." She was the Second Team All-County keeper.
Basketball is her favorite sport. She has loved it since she first picked up a ball competitivelyin the seventh grade. She plans to play it in college. But before that day arrives, Dorsey wants to lead the Gladiators back to the Class2A state playoffs, where they were eliminated by Mount Hebron in thesemifinals last year.
Through Glenelg's (6-3) first nine games, Dorsey appears on track to reach her goal. Her deft shooting has made her the Gladiators' top scorer with an 18.5 average. Her exceptional leaping ability has produced a team-high 7.5 rebounding average. Her quick hands and anticipation skills have produced 3.3 steals a game. Her unselfishness is evidenced by her 3.5 assists per game. Her speedand quickness jump out wherever she is on the floor.
Dorsey's final season at Glenelg figures to be special, because she has been reunited with Struhar -- her third basketball coach in three varsity seasons. Struhar replaced Barb Wolf, who replaced Russ Sellers, who originally replaced Struhar four years ago after the latter had coached the Gladiators for 13 seasons.
"We're close. He is a really good friend, and he's an understanding coach," says the easy-going Dorsey. "Ican talk to him if I ever have a problem. When we get on the court, though, he's my coach. I have to look at him like we've never met. I think that's how it should be."
Dorsey has been one of the league's more intriguing players for three years. As a sophomore, she came off the bench for the first half of the season, before Sellers tapped her obvious ability and made her a starter. She went on to earn All-County honors.
She fell out of favor with Wolf, who relegated her to the bench last year because she considered Dorsey a defensive liability. Dorsey performed in spurts, taking over some games, disappearing in others. Her high point came in the 47-40 loss to Hebron in the state playoffs, when she came off the bench in the second period to score eight points, grab eight rebounds and lead Glenelg out of a 15-point deficit and into a halftime tie with Hebron.
Dorsey admits shehas brought on some of the problems. "I could work harder at showingenthusiasm in practice," she says. "I've worked harder this year because he (Struhar) pushes you harder. He won't hesitate to send you home or take away your starting job. And that's enough to make you wantto run all day long.
"The seniors (Dorsey, Jenny Leedom, Sarah Jones) have had about five lectures about showing leadership and setting examples for the younger players," she adds. "If we hustle, they will. If we play hard, they will."
The first thing Struhar did was assure Dorsey she would start and play often. He also made it clear that the Gladiators' fate rests largely in her hands.
"I'm just trying to bring out more leadership qualities in her," Struhar says. "I'dlike to see her take over the game more often. When she starts doingthat, look out. Girls like her don't come along often."