Hutson family affair net gain for Glen Burnie Three sisters spark volleyball success

September 27, 1993|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Staff Writer

As a devoted member of the Glen Burnie athletic boosters and a volunteer at the school's concession stand, Louise Hutson has heard some unusual requests. But nothing like the one that came from volleyball coach Juanita Milani.

"I asked her the other day, 'Can't you just have three more kids?' " Milani said, smiling at the recollection. "And she laughed and was like, 'No, I can't.' "

Anyone who has witnessed a Glen Burnie volleyball match in the last six years would understand Milani's interest in Hutson's family planning. The three daughters have been integral parts of the program.

It started with Christy Hutson in 1988, her sophomore year. By the time she was a senior, the Gophers were headed for an undefeated season and the Class 4A state championship. It would be their last playoff appearance, although they're off to a 2-0 start this season and are ranked No. 9 in the metro area.

Christy, a middle blocker, received a scholarship to Towson State University after a senior year that concluded with her being chosen All-County, but she could wind up as the third-best player in her family. Just look at who has followed.

Heather Hutson, 16, has been a second-team All-County setter during her first two seasons at Glen Burnie. This year, she is splitting time between setter and hitter because of the arrival of freshman Amy Hutson, 14, who has been plugged into the starting lineup.

Heather, who at 5 feet 9 is three inches taller than Amy, has been receiving letters from college recruiters since her freshman year. And not just any run-of-the-mill programs. Nationally ranked Georgia has shown an interest, and so have Clemson and Ohio State, among others.

Her anonymity ended with her first spike on the Laurel-based Deerfield club team. Coaches James Pavlacka and Brenda Stevens have made certain that influential people in the sport -- including the editors of Volleyball Monthly, who two years ago chose to spotlight Heather as a Player of the Month -- have taken notice.

"It was neat when we went to tournaments in other states and people would say, 'Oh, we saw you in Volleyball Monthly. If you were in there as a freshman, you better look good in this game,' " she said.

Much has been expected of Heather since Christy graduated. That's the kind of pressure that comes with the last name.

"My freshman year, it bothered me," she said. "I came to Glen Burnie and it was like, 'You're going to have to prove yourself.' But now I know that I've achieved what I wanted and I have my own name. I'm Heather Hutson, not Christy's younger sister any more. I know that I've reached her level now, and I know eventually that I'm going to outdo her. And I know Amy will eventually rise above me."

Milani purposely has tried to avoid comparing the sisters, but when pressed to do so, she speaks more about their diverse personalities.

"They are three totally different people, which is nice," she said. "Heather is probably the more talkative and outgoing of the three. You wouldn't know Amy was in the room if you didn't know who she was. She never says a word. And Christy was kind of quiet, but she also had a really good sense of humor."

Heather and Amy came to Glen Burnie with more playing experience than Christy because of their years in club ball. Amy was deemed good enough to join Heather on the same 18-and-under Junior Olympic team.

Last year, Heather had 95 kills, 47 aces and 254 assists as the full-time setter at Glen Burnie. But with Amy on the team, she has been able to rotate to outside hitter, and her stats include 32-of-38 serving, 11 aces, 14 kills and 20 assists. Amy is 20 of 22 serving with five aces, 14 kills and 21 assists.

Perhaps Heather's greatest achievement has been to lessen the amount of pressure that she always has heaped upon herself. Pressure to carry too much of the load during the Gophers' rebuilding process, and to maintain the type of performance that will keep colleges interested.

"I know my junior year is going to make or break me," she said.

Milani said, "Of the three of them, I think she's the hardest on herself. We tell her every once in a while to lighten up, have some fun. I have to walk up to her every so often and ask, 'Heather, are you enjoying this?' "

Some advice from Christy has enabled Heather to relax on the court and maintain her concentration. "I would get really frustrated because I'm such a perfectionist," Heather said.

"Christy told me, 'Heather, you can't just be a physical player, you've got to get yourself together mentally.' I've noticed that ever since I've been able to control my emotions and maintain a game face, it's been a lot better."

Having the support of her parents has been a tremendous help, as well. Heather says that she can't ever remember her parents missing a match.

"There was one time last year when I was looking in the stands wondering, 'Are they here yet?' It was because they were trying to run from Christy's game at Towson to ours," Heather said. "They do a great job juggling all three of us. When we all played on Junior Olympic teams, one of us would be in Pennsylvania and the other would be in Virginia, and somehow they always make it for a least a couple matches."

Louise, a physical education teacher at Severna Park Middle School, said, "It can get real hectic. You're on the road all the time and it's sort of a family endeavor. You've got to let other things go that you'd like to do."

Milani only wishes that Louise Hutson wanted to add a few more daughters to the family.

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