Setting up F. S. Key for success Volleyball: Senior Erin Ness applies the right touches and the Eagles are good at finishing what she starts.

November 06, 1996|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

All the smiles on the volleyball court and raves from the big crowds in Uniontown come after Francis Scott Key's talented hitters pound the ball down on the other side of the net.

Stephanie Stambaugh takes a quick set and 'bam!' -- point Francis Scott Key. Next, it's Cindy Sheedy's turn, down the line for another winner. Nicole Keffer isn't about to be left out, going cross court to find open floor.

None of it can happen without Erin Ness.

The Key senior has taken her setting skills to a higher level this season, enabling coach Leo Totten to employ a 5-1 offense. Everything the No. 7 Eagles (14-1) do works through Ness.

"Erin's the quarterback of our team. She touches every second ball," Totten said. "It takes an emotionally strong person to be able to run a team, and she's become that this season. Our hitters trust her and the team counts on her."

Ness, who had 274 assists during the regular season and averaged 5.6 per game, considers herself fortunate to have such a strong corps of finishers. Stambaugh, last year's Carroll County Player of the Year, has 169 kills this season and averages 3.2 a game. Sheedy has 91 kills and Keffer has 46. All three seniors joined Ness on the All-County's first team last season.

"It's awesome. I just put the ball up there and they pound it straight down," Ness said.

There's a lot more to her job than that. Ness calls out the plays, keeps everyone fired up, knows where each of the Eagle hitters prefer their sets and gets it there.

"Erin's extremely important. The most important part of our team -- she's incredible," said Sheedy, who also plays club ball with Ness in Hanover, Pa.

"When we're down on our hits, she has confidence in us and tells us to be ready because she's going to keep on sending them."

Ness said the secret to the Eagles success is simple: "Our first priority playing volleyball is having fun. We don't play well when we're not having fun."

The Eagles are primed for another run at the Class 1A state title. Last season, with Ness setting along with seniors Kristy Hollman and Amy Brooks, they went undefeated through the season until losing to Monocacy Valley Athletic League rival Williamsport in the state championship match. It was the Wildcats who also provided the Eagles with their only loss this season.

Ness and the Eagles would like nothing more than another chance at Williamsport, but they must first get through their region with another tough MVAL rival, Smithsburg, up next tonight.

"We're hoping to take states this year, but know it's one step at a time," Ness said. "We have a lot back and we've basically picked up where we left off last year. We added a lot of quick sets and the first passes are a lot better this year."

Pub Date: 11/06/96

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