2001 All-Howard County volleyball

November 27, 2001|By Kevin Valkenberg

Player of the Year

Megan Mitchell, River Hill: There may be better volleyball players than the 5-foot-11 Mitchell, but perhaps no one in the county was more important to her team. A starter since her freshman year, Mitchell dives for - and gets to - balls that other players only wish they could. Her 269 digs changed the way teams attacked the Hawks. Always strong defensively, Mitchell also made her presence felt on offense this year. She was one of the best servers in the league with 60 aces and had 184 kills. She had a knack for coming up with clutch points when River Hill most needed them. A second-team selection last year, Mitchell served above 90 percent for her career, including 97 percent (338 of 349) this season. In a late-season victory over Glenelg, she was everywhere, recording nine kills, 10 digs, six aces and a block. Also a standout softball player, Mitchell will try to play both sports at Western Maryland College next year. "In my mind I just tell myself I don't want to see the ball touch the ground," Mitchell said. "I just try to play with intensity and hope it picks everyone else up."

Coach of the Year

Jennifer Beall, Glenelg: Young enough to relate to all her players, but strict enough and wise enough to get the most out of them, Beall has been the perfect fit for Glenelg in her two years as coach. After a solid 10-8 season a year ago in Class 1A, the Gladiators moved up to the 2A this year and went 15-3, making it all the way to the state final before losing to Towson. Along the way, Glenelg, behind the best fan support in the county, ended the five-year string of state titles by Centennial, beating the Eagles in three games in the 2A West Regional semifinals. "I think some of the coaches knew going in that we would have decent team this year," Beall said. "But I don't think anyone expected us to be where we ended up, even ourselves." Beall emphasized that Glenelg play with heart, which was most evident when the Gladiators rallied to win from an 11-3 deficit in the third and decisive game against Centennial. "That was when I was most proud of them," Beall said. "They knew they weren't going to give up."

First team

Julie Bixler, Hammond: A four-year starter, Bixler has improved every season, and despite almost no volleyball experience coming into high school, she developed into one of the best in the county as a senior. Bixler averaged 2.36 kills a game, and had 195 digs, but her biggest asset was her passing, which was as good as any. "People that knew how good she was at passing didn't want to serve to her," said Hammond coach Ken McLaughlin. "That's definitely her strength." She played all season with a stress fracture in her back. Bixler will play volleball next year for Salisbury University.

Lindsay Feller, Centennial: A dominating blocker and hitter, Maryland's Gatorade Player of the Year a year ago had another impressive season for the Eagles, racking up 166 kills (2.9 a game) to go with 53 aces. With teammate Kelsey Tyree, the 6-1 Feller formed one of the most imposing blocks to try and hit through in the area, and with her wicked jump serve and scrappy defense, she became a complete player this season. An All-Metro selection last year, Feller helped lead Centennial to three state championships during her career, which won't end with high school. She was invited to the USA development camp this summer, and will play next year at Northeastern University. "It's been fun to watch her grow as a player and a person," said Centennial coach Mike Bossom.

Krystal Jacobson, River Hill: Potent and versatile, Jacobson, a repeat first-team selection, was the main offensive force behind River Hill's county title. Even in the rare games when Jacobson might struggle passing the ball, she was still the Hawks' go-to hitter on offense with 201 kills (3.35 a game, best in the league). The 6-foot Jacobson also racked up 42 aces and had 40 blocks on the year. She had nine kills in the Hawks' win over Centennial in the county championship and 12 kills in a five-game loss to then-No. 2 Dulaney.

Kelsey Tyree, Centennial: Tall, athletic, smart and left-handed, the 6-2 senior was productive everywhere on the court this season, totalling 101 kills, 26 aces and 35 blocks for the Eagles. A three-year starter, Tyree even took over some setting duties for a stretch, when starter Molly Reitz dislocated her shoulder early in the year, and racked up 118 assists. Also invited to the USA development camp this summer, Tyree will play volleyball at Point Loma University in San Diego. "Kelsey is a very calming influence," Bossom said. "She's hard on herself, but she tries to make sure everyone else is having fun. She's someone teammates look up to."

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