Pirotte escapes sister's shadow Severna Park setter comes into her own

September 28, 1992|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Staff Writer

Before Jaime Pirotte could emerge as Severna Park's No. 1 setter, and one of the premier volleyball players in the county, she first had to stop chasing a ghost.

The haunting image was that of her older sister, Stacy, who manned the same position at Severna Park for three years before receiving a volleyball scholarship to Jacksonville University after the 1989 season. Stacy was an All-County performer as a junior, and the metro area's Player of the Year as a senior.

"Those are pretty big shoes to fill," said Severna Park coach Tim Dunbar.

And Jaime, a freshman reserve during Stacy's final season, felt lost inside.

"I remember her saying things like, 'Well, Stacy did this by her junior year and I want to do one better,' or, 'Stacy did this by her senior year and I want to be better than that.'

"I had to say: 'Jaime, stop chasing her. Be your own person,' " Dunbar said. "I had to keep encouraging her that she didn't have to be Stacy. We needed Jaime to be Jaime."

As Dunbar soon discovered, Jaime isn't exactly a carbon copy of her sister. Their playing styles and personalities on the court differ greatly, though the results usually are the same.

"She's an attacker, and I'm more of a strategic kind of setter," said Jaime, who had 462 assists last year. "To confuse the other team, I mix the sets up and run different plays and stuff."

"Stacy was real aggressive, a real emotional type of leader," Dunbar said. "Jaime is more of an in-the-background type of person. She's

content to set up everybody else and let them be the big stars."

The fact that Jaime Pirotte is content at all is a wonder. Her freshman year was spent needlessly worrying about disappointing her family and never living up to the expectations that accompany her last name.

"I've always wanted to be like my sister, I admire her so much," said Pirotte, 17, who at 5 feet 7 1/2 is a half-inch taller than Stacy. "I always felt that I wanted to be better than her, but Mr. Dunbar has always told me that you have to be yourself.

"My freshman year on varsity, I was sitting behind her on the bench. I don't think it bothered her as much as it bothered me because I was her little sister. But there was a lot of pressure because I was afraid I'd let

my parents down if I wasn't actually on the court."

Stacy, who left Jacksonville after one year and now is a starter at UMBC, says she never noticed Jaime's insecurities.

"I think the only thing that really pressured her was the fact that I had made first-team All-County my junior year, and my senior year I had a lot more awards," Stacy said. "She was second team her junior year, and I think that's something that kind of upset her.

"But what she doesn't understand is that, in my eyes, she's first-team All-County and All-Metro, and she's been that way since she started high school."

Jaime already has accomplished something that her sister never did, leading Severna Park to its third state championship last fall. And with most of the team back this year, the Falcons are favored to repeat.

"There may only be a handful of setters in the state who are like Jaime," Dunbar said. "She's so deceptive and she's very consistent. She puts the ball pretty much in the same spot every time"

"She has such good hands," said senior middle hitter Catherine Kirk. "There's no sound when she hits the ball. She sets the ball no matter where it is."

Senior outside hitter Kate Marks said: "It's not because she's Stacy's sister that she's so great. She's worked hard for everything."

Jaime certainly can't relax now. Along with wanting to earn a college scholarship, she is being pressed for playing time by junior Susan Wren, a transfer from Alabama.

"I've never had that kind of challenge before, somebody right on my heels," Pirotte said.

"She adds another dimension to having six players on the floor," said Glen Burnie coach Juanita Milani. "She's the type of athlete that you can say, 'If you work real hard, you can be like Jaime Pirotte.' "

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