Settled in, Wren sets up Falcons Transfer from Alabama feeds off a tradition

November 17, 1993|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

Severna Park's proud tradition of outstanding volleyball setters goes back to 1987, Tim Dunbar's first year as varsity coach.

There was Jill Moore, a Baltimore Sun Co-Athlete of the Year. And there were the Pirotte sisters -- Stacy, a two-year starter, and Jaime, who started from 1990 through last year. Both were All-Metro selections.

Ann Bochniak would have had her moment, too, but she moved with her family to Georgia after her sophomore year and achieved All-State status there.

"We have a history of successful setters, but Susan doesn't have to fill anyone's shoes," Dunbar said. "She fills her own just fine."

Susan Wren is the latest in the line. A senior, she is a starter for the first time, not because she wasn't good enough before, but because Dunbar didn't want to disrupt what Jaime Pirotte brought to the team last year.

"Susan was good enough," Dunbar said as defending state champion and top-ranked Severna Park (14-0) awaits its match against Western in the Class 4A state semifinals today at 5 p.m. at Watkins Mill.

"When Jaime missed a few games with a leg injury, Susan came in and the team didn't take a step backward. We finished 18-0."

Wren arrived at Severna Park in March of her sophomore year after two years as a starter at Pelham (Ala.) High. Pelham was third in the state when Wren was a freshman, fourth when she was a sophomore.

"There were big tears when we told her we were moving," said Jane Wren, referring to her husband Dan's job transfer to plant manager of Blue Circle Cement in Sparrows Point. "The first words out of her mouth were, 'volleyball.' "

The Wrens gravitated to Severna Park, in part because the Pelham coach had heard good things about the Falcons' program. Dan, who preceded the family here by six months, went to the state tournament and was impressed.

"I thought I would never find another volleyball team that would equal what I had -- the same competitiveness and close-knit group," Susan Wren said. "I thought people here wouldn't be as committed to volleyball, but I learned they were just as committed."

Last season was a trying one for Wren. She spent most of the time on the bench while Jaime Pirotte led the team to the state championship.

"It was hard not to play, because I wasn't used to it," Wren said. "But it made me work harder to get better."

Dunbar said, "Susan never brooded or got upset."

Fortunately, Wren had another volleyball outlet. She played, and will play again, for the Columbia Comets, a club team whose season runs from Thanksgiving to July and includes 15 tournaments. College coaches recruit more from club than high school volleyball.

"A lot of people are looking at her with an eye toward a scholarship," Dunbar said.

The current Severna Park team is as much Wren's as anyone's. Citing her composure and even disposition, Dunbar pointed out that Wren directs an offense that is one of the most complex in the state.

She must be aware of the defense's positioning and listen to her hitters calling out code numbers instructing where the ball should be placed for them.

"All the while, she's watching the ball and getting in the right position for the set," Dunbar said. "She has to process these things in her mind and decide what to do in a split-second. Few teams put as much responsibility on the setter as we do.

"I'm pleased the way she has responded. It's not easy to go to a new high school and make friends, know you're good enough to start on the volleyball team but sit on the bench and keep a good attitude.

"Add to that the legacy of success at Severna Park and the fact she knew, as a setter, she'd have to be a leader. That's a lot of pressure to put on a kid."

In attendance at one match this season was Kate Marks, a former captain and member of two Falcons state championship teams who now is at St. Mary's College. She approached Dunbar after the match.

"You guys are doing great," Marks said. "We never looked this good, did we?"

Dunbar hesitated before replying. "No," he said gently.

That has surprised the many people who reminded Dunbar after last year's championship that it would be difficult to repeat because he would lose seven key players, including four starters. That's it for Severna Park, they told him. But guess what?

"This team is better in every aspect of the game." Dunbar said.

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