Together, Poly reaches for top

Volleyball: A shared goal and offseason work have turned the Engineers into a 6-0 force.

High Schools

October 12, 2003|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Poly senior Erica Turnbull was so excited about this volleyball season that she began calling coach Tiffany Byrd in June to say she couldn't wait for the first day of practice on Aug. 15.

"We had been so determined in the past two years to win the city championship and to go far in regionals and we were really excited to come together and fight for our goals," Turnbull said.

So far, the Engineers have lived up to their expectations. They are 6-0 after Thursday's 25-8, 25-12, 25-13 sweep of Northwestern.

Not only did the Engineers reach the quarterfinals of the prestigious Bulldog Tournament at North Caroline High on the Eastern Shore last weekend, but they also scored a four-game, regular-season win over next-door neighbor Western, the seven-time defending Baltimore City champion, three weeks ago.

The Engineers had last beaten the Doves in a regular-season match in 2000. Their last win before that came in the 1990 city title match, the last time Poly won a city championship.

"We had a lot of odds against us and we were pretty happy to prove people wrong," senior setter Keshawna Buise said of the win over Western. "But we still have a long way to go."

Byrd, in her first season as the Engineers' head coach, reminds the players every day that they haven't won anything yet. They likely will have to play Western again for the city crown on Oct. 30.

Still, the experience the Engineers have gained from club ball and from a tournament such as the Bulldog helps every day.

The Engineers fell in the Bulldog quarterfinals to No. 2 Towson, which swept them in last year's regional playoffs. Still, Towson coach Jayne Lacy said the Engineers are a much different team than before.

"I remember going there about three or four years ago and they just were not volleyball savvy," said Lacy. "They have come an awfully long way. They pass really well, their transition was great, they have nice outside hitters and a good sense of the game."

Byrd, who has coached the Poly girls basketball team for three years and the JV volleyball team for two, recruited a lot of players from the basketball team, including Turnbull and Buise.

Turnbull, a 6-foot outside hitter, leads the team with 2.3 kills while 5-9 Alysia Williams-Chase is also consistent from the outside. Buise averages 2.9 assists per game. Setter Breyonna Jackson is the most consistent server at 94 percent.

Byrd, who requires hard work, discipline and commitment from her players, also encouraged them to join the Starlings Volleyball Club.

"They told me they wanted to have this kind of season, so I told them they had to put in the work in the offseason, but I left it up to them."

Seven Engineers, including Turnbull, Buise, Williams-Chase and Jackson, played for teams that went to the Starlings national tournament in San Diego in June.

Both Turnbull and Buise said the club experience, as well as the teamwide commitment to do what it takes to win the city title, has facilitated tighter team chemistry.

"We're not just a team. Off the court we're pretty good friends," said Buise. "Playing volleyball for the Starlings, it's just like we know each other, so we know what we have to do on the court."

Added Turnbull: "If you if can trust a person as a friend then you can trust them as a player. If someone's my friend, I know that, on the court, she will help me."

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