New coach, same old team

Despite Skaggs' departure, No. 7 Bel Air volleyball returns five starters, prevails in first nine games of season



The Bel Air volleyball team posted an impressive 11-3 record last year and a coaching change hasn't seemed to bother the Bobcats too much this season.

New coach Chris McDonough's Bobcats have rolled to a 9-0 start, dominating most opponents and winning 27 of the 29 games they've played. No. 7 Bel Air has five senior starters who returned from last year, and the Bobcats are hoping to keep their streak going.

McDonough took over from Jen Skaggs, last year's county Coach of the Year, and inherited a team loaded with experienced players. Bel Air had improved from 4-11 the previous year, and the Bobcats just keep getting better.

McDonough said the change in coaches probably hasn't affected Bel Air much because she had been the junior varsity coach for two years and worked with many of this year's players earlier.

"It's been a good experience for all of us," McDonough said. "These girls work really hard together and they listen and try to improve every single day."

The Bobcats also were in first place in their division in the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference with an 8-0 mark there after last week's games. Bel Air has five seniors in its starting rotation - and seven overall - which gives the team experience and talent.

Seniors Gabby Long (last year's county Player of the Year and outside hitter), Arlana Roland (middle hitter), Sarah Smith (setter/hitter), Meghan McDonald (setter/hitter), Sarah Willey (setter/hitter), Liz Meyers (outside hitter) and Megan Sliberzahn (defensive specialist) have played big roles in Bel Air's fast start this season.

McDonough said she was pleased with how the Bobcats worked together at a number of things during the summer to improve their games and ability as a team. That's a big reason that Bel Air has started quickly this season.

The coach said Bel Air has worked hard at things like conditioning - even during the season - to keep playing its best.

"They've all worked at several things together," McDonough said.

The Edgewood tournament has been the team's lone dark spot this season. Bel Air struggled there, falling to Havre de Grace and eventually finishing fourth overall. But the Bobcats bounced back and defeated the Warriors twice since then.

Overall, the Bobcats have lost two games. They beat Fallston and Havre de Grace in four-game matches and have a 27-2 record in games this year.

Bel Air now is going to be shooting for better success than it found in last year's playoffs when the Bobcats fell in the second round of the regionals. McDonough wants the team to remain focused regardless of whether they lose any regular-season matches.

"It's going to be about staying positive," McDonough said.

Feeling better

David Dudley's injured shoulders healed last week, which helped the Joppatowne football team feel much better.

The Mariners got a scare when Dudley injured both of his shoulders during their 22-7 loss to North Harford on Sept. 30. He missed the second half of that game but was able to bounce back and run for 128 yards - on 20 carries - and three touchdowns in one half of Friday's 36-6 rout of Aberdeen.

All of those numbers are even more impressive considering Joppatowne coach Bill Waibel pulled him after a few plays in the third quarter as the Mariners held a 36-0 lead.

"He healed up very well, and he felt very good," Waibel said. "He didn't want to come out."

Dudley has run for 806 yards in the first five games. He also played cornerback in the Aberdeen game and felt fine. The Mariners will need Dudley in this Friday's home game with Fallston (3-2).

Golf update

The district tournaments are scheduled for the Harford County teams next week with the state tournament set for the week after that.

District competitions are to be completed by next Wednesday with the state tournament to take place the next week at the University of Maryland. The Class 4A-3A state semifinals are scheduled for Oct. 24 with the Class 2A-1A semifinals to be played Oct. 25.

The finals from all four classes are set for Oct. 26.

In recent Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference action, Bel Air won the Chesapeake Division tournament and Rising Sun took the Susquehanna Division crown. Aberdeen's Derek Buckley finished with the low score in the Chesapeake Division and teammate Patrick Hinch and Bel Air's Brandon Powers tied for second.

Changing the plans

The Edgewood football team loves to throw and run, but poor weather forced the Rams to run more than anything else in Friday's 10-0 win at Fallston.

Edgewood also had to rely heavily on the play of quarterback Jordan Hancock. The 6-foot-1, 165-pound senior proved effective in both running and passing and kept the Rams' offense moving despite playing in a rainstorm that turned the field into a monstrous mud puddle.

"You should see him on a dry field," Edgewood offensive coordinator Chris Johnson said. "He's unbelievable and very athletic."

Hancock made a number of plays, both running and throwing with slick ball-handling, that didn't seem affected by the poor weather. The Rams wound up with four long drives that kept the Fallston offense off the field and helped them control the game.

Hancock's play was just enough to help Edgewood (2-3, 2-0) retain control and win its second straight game after losing three in a row to begin the season.

"Even though it rained, we still tried to pass," Hancock said. "It worked out OK."

Numbers game

2 - Fake field goals attempted by Edgewood in the rain during Friday's 10-0 win over Fallston. Neither was successful.

8 - Combined points that John Carroll's boys volleyball team lost by when the Patriots fell to Loyola in three straight games last week - their first loss of the season. John Carroll was 8-1 after that match.

9 - Consecutive games the No. 2 John Carroll girls soccer team has won after losing three of its first four.

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