Hollingers double team Westminster's tennis

Freshman Merrisa plays, grandfather Ray coaches


High School

April 07, 2000|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

With only two varsity starts for the Westminster girls tennis team under her belt, Merrisa Hollinger hasn't had enough time or match play to fret about her ground strokes or her footwork.

But if she should, Hollinger doesn't have to look far for guidance because the Owls assistant coach is her grandfather, Ray Hollinger.

"I actually like it a lot," Merrisa Hollinger says of her grandfather as an assistant, "because he taught me how to play tennis. It's no big deal to me."

Says Ray Hollinger, a 69-year-old retiree who has been playing tennis since he was 14: "It feels normal."

For the elder Hollinger, coaching at Westminster is nothing new. He began his assistant coaching career about six years ago when then-head coach Ken Shook asked him to help.

Hollinger, who was an assistant when Merrisa's older sister Jaclyn played for the Owls, hadn't planned on coaching this season until first-year head coach Donald Cook asked for his aid.

Hollinger, who was the No. 2 singles player for two seasons at Juniata College, said his intention was not to coach Merrisa, a freshman.

"The intention was to help Don," Hollinger says. "I would've done it anyway. It was an added bonus that Merrisa was here."

Both Hollinger and Cook agree that to avoid any concerns about nepotism, the head coach makes all the decisions regarding playing time.

Cook says Hollinger's presence has had a calming effect on Merrisa.

"I've seen situations where parents are coaching their own children, and the father is harder on the kid than the other players, and that causes a lot of animosity," Cook says. "That is the opposite for Merrisa. She draws strength from her grandfather."

So far, Merrisa Hollinger has hit some rough waters. She is 0-2 after losing a three-setter to Joyce Watkins of Francis Scott Key and a 10-4 pro set to Deanna Bridge of Thomas Johnson.

Hollinger says she likes the fact that her grandfather is an active coach who frequently hits with the girls.

"He plays with us," she says. "It's not like he just sits back and talks."

Buppert eyes return to Cavs

Good news arrived for the South Carroll boys lacrosse team.

Senior attack Jesse Buppert learned yesterday that he will not need surgery after an MRI showed he had a slight tear in the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

Buppert, who is the school's leader in career assists with 65, will be fitted with a brace and his knee will be checked again in a couple of weeks, said Cavaliers coach John O'Meally.

"We got the best news we could get," said O'Meally, who is wary about giving his top playmaker any game time until the next checkup. "He was excited. He just wants to play, and it's hard to keep him off the field."

Buppert suffered the injury in the first quarter of a 12-7 loss to Centennial last Friday.

The absence of Buppert, who will play lacrosse at UMBC next spring, was evident in the Cavaliers' 9-6 loss to North Carroll Tuesday.

Before Buppert's injury, South Carroll had converted about 60 percent of its extra-man opportunities. Against the Panthers, the Cavaliers connected on one of 10 power-play chances.

O'Meally is cautiously optimistic that Buppert will return this season.

"He's so competitive," O'Meally said of Buppert. "He said, `I'll get in standing on the crease if I have to.' "

Key girls on a roll

With little fanfare, the Francis Scott Key girls lacrosse team is turning this season into a landmark year.

The Eagles, who started their varsity program last season and won their first two games in the regional playoffs, have won three straight games after beginning the season 0-2.

Francis Scott Key coach Stacie Stouffer said she believes the squad is using last year's playoff run as a springboard.

"With those first two games we won, it helped give us confidence," Stouffer said. "And having another year with the same kids back has given us some experience."

One of those returners is junior attack Sarah Guynn, who has torched opposing teams for 34 goals and four assists. Senior goalkeeper Brandi Daigle has made 71 saves in five outings.

The Eagles' torrid streak began with a 13-12 nipping of Long Reach last Thursday. That win marked the first regular-season victory for the Eagles, who have since defeated Howard, 16-13, and St. James Academy, 18-10.

Stouffer said the true test will come against other county teams.

"Their skills have improved, and we're playing better as a team," she said.

Nominate athletes

The Baltimore Sun accepts nominations for its Athletes of the Week Sundays 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at 410-332-6200 or 1-800-829-8000, Ext. 6200.

Two athletes (one boy and one girl) will be selected each week and featured in Wednesday's editions. Athletes nominated must be available the next Monday to have their pictures taken. Only coaches can nominate Athletes of the Week.

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