Centennial leads the pack in volleyball Glenelg, Hebron, Atholton are best of rest

September 16, 1992|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Staff Writer

As the high school volleyball season begins, the question is not who will reign supreme in the county this fall. The question is who will offer the most noticeable challenge to Centennial.

The Eagles are on a roll like few teams enjoy. They are coming off a 19-0 state-championship season, a year in which they never were seriously threatened. And virtually the entire starting lineup, including Player of the Year Shannon Saltzman, is back. It should make for some painful nights for Centennial opponents.

"They [Centennial] are in a class by themselves," said Hammond coach Henry Dahlen, echoing the opinion of many county coaches.

Shook, who is going for his third state title in the last four years, said this is the best team he has ever had. He added that if the Eagles need a fourth or fifth game to win a match, it will be because he is playing his second and third units, something Shook did often last year after the Eagles won the first two games of a match. Still, the Eagles lost only four games all year.

"If we go full power [first string] the whole time, it could get ugly," Shook said. "I could go with just the first string, but I don't want that. I'll be satisfied if we don't lose a game with the third unit in there."

The county gets interesting after Centennial. Glenelg will present the tallest team in the county, and the Gladiators appear poised to erase a sub-.500 season. Hebron is coming off two consecutive state titles, and even though the Vikings lost four All-County players to graduation, they still have enough talent to cause problems for most teams. Atholton has one of the top players in the county in Kelly Smith, while Hammond has the same caliber of player in Sonia Keiner, as does Howard with Jenny Harron.

Here is a look at each team:

Atholton

One of the county's more stable programs under Coach Jon Peterson, Atholton has the height, skills and experience to finish as high as second.

Three starters return from last year's 9-7 team, led by All-County senior hitter Kelly Smith. A three-year starter, the 6-foot Smith is capable of carrying the Raiders. She led the county with 155 kills and led the Raiders with 23 point blocks and 38 aces last year.

Junior 5-10 hitter Robin McGraw also should be a force at the net. And look out for sophomore hitter Amanda Williams. Senior Kristen Pramik can play any position without hurting the Raiders.

"Obviously, we want to get the ball to Kelly as much as possible, but this is as balanced a team as I've ever had," Peterson said. "If Kelly, Kristen, Amanda and Robin play out of this world, we have a shot [at a title]. If they play average, we're going to be average."

Centennial

Say hello to one of the mortal locks of the fall season.

The Eagles return nearly the entire roster from last year's 19-0 team that lost only four games all year, did not lose the first game of any match and did not lose a playoff game en route to their third state championship in four seasons.

They've got height and talent. They are clearly head and shoulders above the rest of the league.

"This is my best team ever. This team would blow away the '89 state championship team," said Coach Bill Shook.

Begin in the front row, where seniors Shannon Saltzman (6-foot-0) and Laura Taneyhill (5-9) could present the most devastating offensive combination the county has ever seen.

Saltzman, the reigning Player of the Year, is terrific on offense (149 kills, 51 percent of hits went for kills) and defense (league-high 40 point blocks). Taneyhill, one of five returning All-County players, had 122 kills. She may have the most blistering shot in the county.

But the Eagles can beat you in so many other ways. Senior Sezin Omer (222 assists) is the county's premier setter, and she has earned some front-row time with a terrific preseason. Junior 5-11 hitter Carly Cangiano (80 kills) and senior hitter Sandy Palasek, both All-County players, are back. Then there are senior Jenny Bartel and senior backcourt specialist Susan Green, who also has a terrific serve. Junior Carrie Shadrick -- maybe Centennial's most underrated player last year -- led the Eagles with 46 aces and was second with 144 assists.

As if it isn't loaded enough, Centennial also will bring several promising newcomers -- promoted from last year's 15-0 junior varsity team -- off the bench. Chief among them will be 6-foot sophomore middle hitter Krisha Svehla, whom Shook calls "the next Saltzman."

How can this team lose? It looks so strong that it's scary.

Glenelg

The Gladiators, coming off a 6-9 season, should be the county's most improved team. They are the league's tallest team, they return five solid starters, and the majority of the Gladiators played club ball in the off-season.

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