High-scoring Sonia Keiner at Hammond's service Golden Bears star all-around player

November 17, 1992|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Staff Writer

Hammond's volleyball team has completed a 10-6 season, which included its second straight trip to the regional playoffs. How would the Golden Bears have fared without junior Sonia Keiner?

"Just reverse the numbers," says coach Henry Dahlen without hesitation. "We might have pushed .500, but I don't know if TC another person could have filled all those roles. Sonia does everything."

Keiner's volleyball resume is impressive.

Looking for a scorer? Keiner has what it takes. She led the Bears with 120 kills -- a third of Hammond's total -- and she did it with a combination of power and finesse. At 5 feet 8, she doesn't have the height to overwhelm taller blocks at the net, but Keiner compensates with smarts. She's as adept at dropping dinks over blockers as she is at blasting spikes into defensive openings.

Keiner is also dangerous when serving. She had a 94-percent success rate, and added 55 aces, a little over three per match. Defensively, she is one of the county's top players in the back row, with a knack for digging out tough hits.

She also settles easily into a setting role. In Dahlen's 6-2 offense, Keiner and senior Jennifer Garlick team up as dual setters. Keiner produced 85 assists. Oh, she also had 23 point blocks, half of the team's total in that department.

Says Dahlen, "I had to use her in a lot of different ways because we weren't that deep this year and because she is such a smart player."

And such a busy one. Volleyball has been a year-round pursuit for Keiner since she joined the Arlington, Va.-based Capital Volleyball Club as an eighth-grader. The club season runs from December to mid-summer, and it travels all over the country. Last summer, Keiner's 16-and-under team won an East Coast championship and finished 29th in a national tournament in Albuquerque, N.M.

"My favorite part of the game is defense. I was a defensive specialist on last year's club team, and I would've like to play back row more this year [for Hammond]," Keiner says. "There is something about digging up an awesome spike by the other team. I like it more than getting a kill. People don't notice it as much, but I like it more."

People have noticed how strong the Bears have become in the past two years, including going to the playoffs this year, where they lost to Towson.

Keiner is a big reason for the success. When she came out for the team, her skills forced Dahlen to break precedent and start a freshman. The Bears struggled to a 3-12 record that year, but last fall, behind Keiner and setter Bridget Keefe, Hammond had an 11-4 record.

"Sonia forced a lot of my juniors and seniors to improve, and I think that's what led to our turnaround," says Dahlen.

This year, with Keefe having graduated, Keiner became the team's leader.

The reserved Keiner acts like a role model for any student-athlete. Since coming to Hammond she has maintained a B-plus to A grade-point average. And when Keiner isn't making great plays on the volleyball court, she makes them on the basketball court.

She has started for the past two years as a forward on the basketball team. Last year, she was instrumental in Hammond's drive to its first state championship, averaging 13 points and 10 rebounds. Last summer, she played with the Arundel Waves, a 15-and-under team that made it to the AAU Nationals in Amarillo, Texas.

She balances both sports during basketball season.

"I think I concentrate too much on sports. I'm going to have [to] start working on my grades more," said Keiner, who admitted her GPA has "slipped" to 3.5.

"My first love is probably basketball, but volleyball is really close now," she adds. "The sports are similar. You need court sense, you need to anticipate where the ball is going to be and you need to be in the right position, or your team will suffer for it."

Hammond does not figure to suffer much while Keiner is around.

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