South Carroll recovers from bleak start

November 18, 1994|By Bill Free | Bill Free,Sun Staff Writer

Bleak at best.

That was the picture facing the South Carroll volleyball team seven weeks ago when the Cavaliers traveled to North Carroll for an important Carroll County match.

The team's top setter, Melissa Gettemy, had her right hand in a cast and no one knew when she would return to action.

The team's top hitter, Nicole Spencer, seemed a little lost without Gettemy around to get her the ball.

In general, South Carroll was a team lacking communication on the floor and plagued by one breakdown after another in all phases of the game.

One game it was a serving problem, the next it was bad passing or bad judgment on balls headed out of bounds, and the next it could be poor sets or a combination of all of the above.

This was a team apparently headed nowhere fast.

The Cavaliers were wiped out in three straight games that Sept. 28 night by North Carroll and fell to a 2-3 record. They would lose two more matches in a row to plummet to 2-5 before showing any signs of recovery.

There were some subtle signs of improvement at first before the team simply took off on a tear that has landed it in the state tournament for the first time since 1985.

South Carroll (11-7 and 15th ranked in the metro area) has won five straight matches and nine of its last 11 to gain a berth in tomorrow night's 5 o'clock state Class 3A championship match against No. 1 Centennial (23-1) at Catonsville Community College.

If the rejuvenated Cavaliers can beat the Eagles, they would bring the first state volleyball title to South Carroll.

It's only natural that the first question everybody asks South Carroll coach Debbie Eaton these days is: "What turned it all around for your team?"

"I really don't know how to explain it," said Eaton. "Early in the year we lost a lot of matches in five games and now we're winning those kinds of matches. We're certainly playing with more confidence because we know we can win the close ones."

However, Eaton said she could not put her finger on anything technical her squad was doing better.

"It just seemed like earlier in the season the harder we tried to play the more things went wrong," said Eaton.

"Melissa [Gettemy] only missed one match due to her sore right hand, so we really can't blame a lot of the slow start on that. Fortunately, she had no broken bones but the hand remained tender and sore for a while. She still is bothered by the hand occasionally but Melissa is the kind of girl who can play right through it. She loves the game."

Gettemy, a wiry senior, is considered the top setter in the county and she is also an outstanding server and big hitter.

Her enthusiasm for the game and desire to win seems to have lit a spark into the whole team, including Spencer who has the talent at the net to carry a team when on top of her game.

Spencer, 5 feet 9, has all the skills it takes to excel at volleyball -- quickness, leaping ability, good hands and intensity.

But at times, Spencer becomes too intense and overhits the ball. She is simply trying too hard and loses confidence when things go badly.

That all has changed lately for Spencer and she has been a force in tournament wins over Meade (three games), Linganore (five games), highly regarded Walt Whitman of Montgomery County (five games) and C. Milton Wright (three games).

In tight situations, Spencer, a senior, and Gettemy have almost always come through during the late-season drive.

But they've also received a lot of help from juniors Amy Stephenson and Michelle Pickett, seniors Amy Kable and Jamey McGregor and sophomore Courtney Butler who was called up from the junior varsity before the regionals started.

Stephenson leads the team in points won serving and is strong on the back line. Pickett is a good setter and has a knack for running off two or three straight points on her serve in tough late-game situations. Kable is consistently good on her serve, McGregor is known for her back-line play, and the 5-9 Butler is a strong hitter who is not intimidated at the net.

Other standout Cavaliers are Kelly Johnson, Kelly Carter, Danica Yerdon, Alison Smith, Jen Felipe, Ce Wagner and Jessica Butz.

"These girls have come a long way," said Eaton. "They are proud of what they've accomplished and seem to play better against the tougher teams."

Certainly, Centennial is a tough team and South Carroll will go in as an underdog.

So what does Eaton have planned for the Eagles?

"We're going to have to block well because Centennial is a strong hitting team," Eaton said. "And we're going to have to serve well. Let's just say, we're going to have to do everything the best we can."

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