Severna Park girls volleyball team again looks like class of the county

September 11, 1992|By Roch Eric Kubatko and Steven Kivinski | Roch Eric Kubatko and Steven Kivinski,Staff Writers

After Glen Burnie's volleyball team won the Class 4A state championship in 1990, the Gophers underwent a drastic change in personnel due to graduation.

Another change took place as well. With only two players returning, they didn't even make the playoffs last season.

Now, here comes Severna Park, which inherited the state crown from Glen Burnie.

And this is about all that the two programs have in common.

Unlike the Gophers, the Falcons didn't experience an upheaval. In fact, while the Anne Arundel County Sun's Player of the Year, April Kaiser, and first-team All-County outside hitter Cassandra Melton both departed, Severna Park picked up three transfers ++ who had been starters at their previous schools.

The rich really do get richer.

First-team All-County selections Catherine Kirk, a 5-foot-11 senior, and Jen Conner, a 5-9 junior, remain and hope to lead the Falcons to a fourth state championship. In all, nine players return, including four starters.

"I don't just have kids back, I've got my best players back," said Falcons Coach Tim Dunbar. "It's not like I have nine returning players who were on the bench. I've got key components of my offense and defense from last year."

So, guess who's the favorite to repeat as regional champions?

The following is a closer look at the county volleyball teams:

4A League

If there is a concern for Dunbar, besides the fact that so many talented players will have to accept sitting on the bench, it's that Severna Park lost about 275 kills when Kaiser and Melton left.

Then, there's the good news -- and lots of it.

"I don't think there's a better defensive player than [5-10 senior] Kate Marks," Dunbar said of his second-team All-County outside hitter, who had 82 kills and 51 blocks last year. "I probably have the best setter in the county in Jaime [Pirotte], but [teammate] Susan Wren is right on her heels. And, Julie [Kasprzak], when she is on, she is absolutely tremendous. But the thing is, she may not even start."

Wren is a 5-8 junior who transferred from Alabama, where she led her team to the state finals last year. Sisters Amy and Sherri Patton came over from Laurel.

"It would be very presumptuous to say we're going to win it all," Dunbar said. "If it all came down to looking at it on paper, then you wouldn't play the season. But we have an awful lot of talent."

Broadneck lost to Severna Park in last year's regional finals, and Dunbar said he believed that the Bruins were the second-best team in the state -- even better than Northern, the squad Severna Park downed in four games to win the state title.

Even with the losses of first-team All-County setter Nikki St. Clair, who moved on to the Naval Academy's prep school, and second-team hitter Kennita Kirby Jones, the Bruins are primed for another strong showing.

Senior hitter Julie Scott, a first-team pick last year, is widely regarded as the best player in the county. She had over 130 kills last season, "and she's an outstanding server and defensive player, too," said Bruins Coach Glenn Brainer.

"Unfortunately, we're not sure if she's going to have a setter to get the ball to her like last year."

Glen Burnie is blessed with a tremendous setter and server in Heather Hutson, who made second-team All-County last year as a freshman.

The Gophers went 7-6 despite losing so many players, "and we're still young this year," said Coach Juanita Murdock-Milani.

The returnees include four sophomores and two juniors, plus the lone senior, middle hitter Melody MacKinnon. Freshman Stacey Ellenberger made the team as an outside hitter and setter.

Meade surprised just about everyone in the county by winning 10 matches and making the regional playoffs last year. Everyone, that is, but the Mustangs themselves.

"We had been kind of like building up to that point," said Coach Vicki Hedgebeth. "Last year was the culmination of four years. This year, I think we'll do well, but we're rebuilding, also."

That's because first-team All-County middle hitter Vonnita Pinkett and second-team setter Nicole Smith have left. So, too, did second-teamer Amy Neff and four other players.

Only four Mustangs return and Hedgebeth said, "We won't have the same strong blocking in the middle.

"Our strength is how they work together. I'm not going to say we'll go out and win the same amount of games, but we'll definitely give other teams a run for their money."

Old Mill should do the same, perhaps even running directly into the playoffs.

"I'd like to think we're in the top four this year," said Patriots Coach Patti DeMarco, whose team was fifth last year and barely missed the postseason.

Old Mill has eight players back, including seven seniors. The line-up boasts two six-footers -- middle hitters Anne Chicorelli and Debbie Dawson -- and a bunch of 5-9 and 5-10 athletes who will make blocking at the net a strong suit.

"I hope this is our year," DeMarco said.

may end up being Arundel's year. At least, Wildcats Coach Lee Rogers believes so.

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