Coach gets stick, stuck on volley

September 20, 1994|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,Sun Staff Writer

No, Halloween did not come early to Atholton. Volleyball coach Sybil Kessinger had other reasons for wearing that black lipstick yesterday.

It was the price Kessinger paid for a deal she cut with her team Friday afternoon.

The Raiders were trailing Lackey 13-6 in the first game of their non-league match when Kessinger decided on a new strategy. "I told them if they could win the game and go on to win the match, I would wear to school whatever color lipstick they wanted me to."

It worked. The Raiders rebounded to win the match 15-11, 15-8, 15-13.

"It's a motivator," Kessinger said of her strategy. "We've been starting out each of our first games slow. We get down early, and we just don't do anything the way we normally do. Then we come alive and start to play well."

Friday's win boosted the Raiders to 2-0 after a 15-12, 15-5, 15-13 sweep of Hammond on Sept. 12.

A trio of outside hitters provided most of the Raiders' power. Jennifer Ponzette, a transfer from Palotti, led the way with 14 kills in five games, making just four errors on 24 hits. She also had 12 service aces.

Amanda Williams added 12 kills with three errors on 22 hits. Madigan Marth had nine kills with four errors on 21 attempts.

The Raiders -- and maybe the rest of the school -- probably wonder what Kessinger has up her sleeve if Atholton can pull out a win this week. Next up for the Raiders, No. 7 Glenelg today and No. 1 Centennial Thursday.

The European influence

For the past couple years, a few of Centennial's best field hockey players have honed their skills on a summer European tour.

In August, Becca Armiger and Allison Altscher spent two weeks playing in England, Belgium, Germany and Holland. It didn't take them long to notice a difference in the level of play.

"The biggest difference was the speed of the game," said Altscher, a forward. "They play on turf, so their passes are much shorter and quicker. It's really hard to play like that on grass."

That speed kept Armiger, a goalie, busier than she had ever been. "They're hungry and relentless," she said. "They just have a sense for what to do and where to pass."

Armiger, Altscher and wing Emily Ward, who took the tour in 1993, also discovered that field hockey is a much more popular sport in Europe than in the United States. In Europe, both men and women begin playing as early as 5 years old. There are professional leagues as well as arenas devoted just to field hockey.

"Here, hockey isn't that big," said Altscher. "Soccer gets a lot more press and more people have heard of it. It's hard for observers to watch our games, because they get confused. They don't understand the sport. They don't see field hockey on TV. Other sports get that publicity."

Playing in that atmosphere helps as much as playing against a high level of skill, said Centennial coach Gail Purcell. "The kids come back with so much confidence and self esteem. A nucleus of two or three kids [who have been on the tour] helps because they've had international experience. It makes a real difference in our team."

Their experience paid off Friday afternoon in Centennial's season opener, a first-ever win against Westminster.

Armiger made 14 saves and Altscher scored the game-winner in a 2-1 come-from-behind victory. Ward assisted on Altscher's goal, and Jeannie Lee had the first Eagles' goal.

The win also boosted the Eagles three spots to No. 9 in this week's Top 15 poll.

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