Strength of King moves teammates Dealing with pain: The two-time All-County volleyball player has dealt with the death of her brother by leading Perry Hall into the playoffs.

November 08, 1995|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Erica King's Perry Hall volleyball teammates have always considered her their strength.

She's their rock, their powerhouse hitter. The senior captain leads the No. 4 Gators with 2.2 kills per game. She had nine last Wednesday night to lead a sweep of Chesapeake for the Gators' first Baltimore County title.

But King's strength runs deeper than her physical power. Gators setter Kim Opdyke often marvels at her best friend's inner strength.

"Erica's always been a real strong person," said Opdyke. "When we were younger, I don't think I ever saw her cry. I remember one time when she sprained her ankle and she started crying. I was like 'she's crying, there's got to be something really wrong.' "

Now, King has to summon all of that inner strength just to concentrate on volleyball. She still struggles to keep her mind off the day three weeks ago, her 17th birthday, when her brother was killed in an automobile accident.

Nick Traut, Perry Hall senior, Eagle Scout and King's stepbrother since they were 7 years old, died Oct. 14 after his truck apparently hit a bump and hydroplaned out of control on Bel Air Road near New Cut Road colliding with two other cars. King, who had been in College Park watching a volleyball match, found out when she called home from a birthday party thrown by the Gators.

Suddenly, her teammates became her strength.

"We all realized we needed to be there for her," said Opdyke. "We know volleyball is important to her but her family is more important. Nobody was overwhelming her, but if she needed something, we were always there."

While tragedy often brings friends closer, King said her team already was like a second family because many of them had played club volleyball together for years. Having them all nearby zTC comforted her, especially at school the Monday after the accident.

"I had so many people telling me how strong I was to come to school, but I thought it would be easier because I knew everyone was going to be here for me," said King, who along with some of her friends and Traut's friends spent most of that day with a county schools crisis intervention team. "I didn't realize how strong I was I guess. I never had to think about it before though."

The day after Traut's funeral, King returned to the court for a match with Sparrows Point. She struggled through that three-game sweep of the Pointers, but since then she has played better than ever.

"Volleyball is her release," said Perry Hall coach Pam Wilt. "She's a good volleyball player and this is a way for her to release any frustrations or any emotions or feelings she has inside."

After Monday night's regional quarterfinal sweep of Western, King is focusing on helping the Gators (17-4) win their first regional title in three years as well as considering her volleyball future.

The two-time first-team All-County pick has plenty of potential as a college player, said Wilt adding that the only strike against King is her height. At 5-foot-8, King is not tall enough for a top Division I program, but her all-around skills and her 3.9 grade-point average should make her a strong Division I-A or Division II prospect.

Even with the diversion of volleyball, King's thoughts never really wander too far from her brother, who Wilt said knew how good a player his sister is.

"Before every game I think about him. I'm not sure why. I feel like I'm winning them for him now," King said.

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