Allen returns to top of her game

October 11, 1994|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Sun Staff Writer

For someone who had begun to establish herself as one of the area's premier volleyball players, Severna Park's Julie Allen sure felt lousy.

High temperature. Dizziness. Fatigue. It was enough to make a person want to stay in bed -- unless you're Allen, a 5-10 junior who would rather stay on the court.

Two weeks ago, she twice had to leave practices early because of a fever, but still registered 19 kills in a five-game loss to 'N Broadneck, and 10 more in a 3-0 win at South River.

The previous week, she had 14 kills in a sweep of Southern despite an illness that finally has left her system, as evidenced by the 22 kills in last Thursday's 3-1 win over Chesapeake, and 51 in 12 games of the North Caroline Tournament.

Her statistics for the year don't look sickly, either; she has 148 kills in 37 games.

"If she can play that well when she's that weak," said coach Tim Dunbar, "think how well she can play when she's at full strength."

Dunbar tried to conserve Allen's energy by removing her from the back row and letting her sit out the third game of the South River match. But Allen refused to stay on the bench for the duration.

"I really love the sport. I can't stand watching. I have to be in there," she said.

Allen is the only returning player who saw significant court time last season, when the Falcons were winning their third consecutive 4A state championship. But she usually got lost in a crowd that included two All-Metro hitters and an All-Metro setter.

She began getting noticed more in the state tournament, when she had five kills and served an ace to close a 3-0 win over Western in the semifinals, and added four kills and numerous blocks in a 3-1 victory over Quince Orchard.

"I could see she was starting to blossom as a player," Dunbar said. "She had been standing in the shadows of all these superstars, but she started to come into the forefront toward the end of the season. I expected that would continue this season."

It has, despite Allen's move from middle to outside hitter -- a difficult adjustment under ideal circumstances, but even more demanding for someone who had been sick.

"The entire approach is different," Dunbar said. "The arm swing is different, the timing is different. As a result, sometimes you can see her missing a little here and there. But she's not missing much any more."

Said Allen, who hasn't enjoyed the luxury of working with an experienced setter: "I played outside when I first started [in seventh grade] and didn't know what I was doing. Now, I kind of knew where everyone was supposed to be on the court. But I had to ask, 'Where do I go here?'I wasn't always real sure."

She is one of six new starters in the lineup, and comparisons to last year's standout hitters, Julie Kasprzak and Jen Conner, among others, are inevitable. But not totally unfair.

"She can be right up there with the other kids who have come into this program," Dunbar said. "There's no reason to think, with her athletic ability and work habits, that she can't do what the others did. She's one of the top players in the county right now. She might not be at the top, but she can see it from where she is."

One thing is certain: Allen won't be overmatched physically. "She's a superior athlete, muscular, with big shoulders," Dunbar said. "She can really jump and is quick on her feet. Her vertical is good, well over nine feet when she's hitting. She hits with a lot of power and has great timing on her blocks.

"What excites her the most this year is her improved defense and passing."

Her serving also has gotten better -- she is 112-for-126 with 23 aces -- but her weakened condition wouldn't allow her to do much of that until recently.

Allen credits her time spent last year on the Capital club volleyball team for upgrading her skills. She felt ready to take on the responsibility of leading the Falcons this season.

"I had more confidence in myself," she said. "I was looking forward to this a lot."

And nothing can drain her enthusiasm.

"I'll take all the pain I can," she said, "until I can't take anymore."

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