All for one, one for all - except one day a year

Volleyball: Five teammates on the Orange Crush club become rivals when Towson and Dulaney meet in the Baltimore County championship.

October 29, 2002|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Playing together on the nationally competitive Orange Crush club volleyball team, Stephanie Kines, Emily Berman, Stephanie Heard, Jen Wylie and Bruna Fonseca have forged a close friendship, but one day a year all that changes.

When the Baltimore County volleyball championship rolls around, their loyalties are split as they take sides in one of the fiercest rivalries in county sports. Kines, Berman and Heard play for Towson. Fonseca and Wylie play for Dulaney.

Every year since these five seniors were freshmen, their teams have squared off in the county title match. They will go at it for the final time tomorrow at 6 p.m. at Towson.

"We're rivals one day a year," said Berman, "and that day is the most intense day of your life. The whole day people are saying to you, `You're going to win tonight, right?' and you know if you lose, you're going to hear about it all through club season."

The No. 1 Generals are looking to even the score, having snatched the crown away last season after No. 4 Dulaney won the title match in their freshman and sophomore years.

The buildup starts in preseason. The first thing Fonseca does when she gets her schedule is circle the date for the county championship.

"We know we're going to play Towson, and we work the whole season to peak at this moment," said Fonseca. "In my mind, it's one of, if not the most, important game of the season. If we win this game, the momentum will carry on through to regionals and states. I'm sure they feel the same way. There's no need to talk about it."

The talk comes later, with bragging rights for the next club season.

Despite the intensity, the contention melts into hugs all around after each title match.

"It's competitive, but we know that whoever wins and loses, it's not going to change your friendship," said Heard, the only one not planning to play college ball.

"What makes this work is that these kids genuinely like each other," said Orange Crush coach Ian Blanchard, who guided Dulaney to two state titles before taking over at CCBC-Catonsville this fall.

"These kids come from rival schools, and to some degree they're competing against each other with colleges. It could be much more of a rivalry, but these kids are able to put all that behind them."

Last July, they led the Time Out for Sports Orange Crush 17-and-under team to a 37th-place finish of 64 teams at the USA Volleyball Junior Olympic National Championships in Salt Lake City. The year before, Kines, Fonseca and Wylie helped the team finish 17th.

At the same time, they have been instrumental in keeping their high school teams among the best in the state. Coach Jayne Lacy's Towson team won last year's state Class 2A championship. Dulaney won Class 4A crowns in 1999 and 2000.

For Wylie, playing with Kines and Berman has offered more motivation to excel as a player.

"You learn a lot from playing with other people and watching other people play," said Wylie. "Me and Stephanie [Kines] compete with our positions on our club team."

In addition to their school rivalry, this group blends a range of personalities.

Kines, a 5-foot-11 All-Metro hitter, is somewhat of the mother hen, open and easy to listen to. Fonseca, the setter, is the self-described "class clown," silly but also extremely intense. Berman, a 6-1 powerhouse hitter, is the latecomer to the sport, funny and outgoing but tough on herself. All three carry 3.3 grade-point averages.

Wylie and Heard are more introverted and studious but no less competitive. Wylie, a 5-8 hitter, who missed most of last season after breaking her right foot twice, has a 3.95 GPA, while Heard, the defensive specialist, has a 3.86 GPA.

"We're all so compatible socially and athletically," said Kines. "Especially with Bruna and Jen, we don't see each other all the time, but it doesn't matter how much time has gone by. We pick up where we left off. It's so easy."

New Dulaney coach Joanne Marshall went through the same thing when she played high school volleyball at Northern, in Calvert County. Playing for the Southern Maryland Juniors, some of her teammates came from rival Calvert.

"It helps when you enjoy the people you play with and against," said Marshall.

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