In tribute to fallen teammate, Westminster dives in headfirst

On High Schools

High Schools

October 13, 2005|By MILTON KENT

On the back of Kristi Zepp's warm-up T-shirt last night was a saying, "It's easier to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission," which sounds like a modern reading of the old saying, "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread."

To her Westminster volleyball teammates, Beth Green, who died last Wednesday driving home from a match, will always be an angel, but she was never afraid to dive in headfirst.

"It was her motto," said Zepp, a senior middle hitter at Westminster. "Her dad read it at her funeral. Her mom says she learned that from him and that's how Beth lived. She never worried about what she was doing until after it was done and then worry about the consequences. She would go for it. I miss her to death."

From the outside, Beth Green may have seemed to be one of millions of high school athletes. From the inside, however, Beth was the one kid on every team who always made you find that extra gear you never knew you had, the one who compelled you, by the force of her personality, to dig down into places in your heart you had never discovered, much less anyone who didn't live in your skin.

"She was so full of life and she always had a smile on her face," said Jill Olson, the team's libero, or defensive specialist. "Her eyes were so blue and so happy all the time. She had a contagious laugh. Every time she walked into the room, you knew she was there just because it felt warmer. Her smile ..."

Olson's voice trailed off then. She didn't need to complete the thought.

"She was a great kid for any coach," said Jim Roberts, Westminster's JV volleyball coach. "She wanted to win. She played hard. She expected that same level of play out of her teammates, but she encouraged them. It wasn't like a yelling match. It was an encouraging kind of thing. She led by example."

Beth, a junior setter, wasn't just an inspirational player, but was one with skill. She had just cracked the starting lineup and had 30 assists in a match against No. 2 Liberty, which has a 48-match winning streak.

She led the Owls back from a two-games-to-none hole against Century this year with 25 assists to win the match. Perhaps that's why the entire Century team turned out at last night's match against Linganore, the first since Beth died, to not only support Westminster in spirit, but to give them homemade goody bags after the match.

With about four minutes left in the warm-up, the gym became eerily silent as, one-by-one, each Westminster player went over to hug Beth's family, with everyone wiping away a tear. Then, after a moment of silence, the Owls all held hands during the national anthem.

Then the gym grew still as the starters took the floor, sang "Ole, ole, ole, ole," the way they always did when Beth served. They then tossed the ball under the net, forfeiting a point, as if to say, "This one's for you, Beth."

The Owls, who started four juniors in a tribute to Beth, fell behind quickly 10-5 in the first game, and coach Anne Plunkert called a timeout. Instead of chastising her players, Plunkert reminded them that there was something more at stake.

"I said, `We've got to get it together,'" Plunkert said. "We knew that the first couple of points were going to be tough. The emotions were still there and the girls were still upset. I said, `You have to focus. That's what she would want us to do out there, to go out and play.' Beth was so competitive."

After a brilliant play in which two girls dived to the floor to save the point to tie the game at 13, Westminster caught fire, outscoring Linganore 12-6 to win the first game. From there, the rout was on as the Owls closed out the Lancers 25-17 in the second game and 25-14 in the third.

As the match ended, the crowd -- far larger than usual by all accounts -- handed the Owls a standing ovation. The team then signed a game ball and posed with it and with the people for whom it was intended -- Beth's parents and her grandfather.

Plunkert, in her second season at Westminster, has probably had to do her best coaching in the six days between Beth's death and last night's match. It's not a particularly easy thing to do, to keep players' wits about them when someone so vital, so special, has left their midst.

"I think that the toughest thing is to lose a player in season," Plunkert said. "I'm not sure there's a worse nightmare for the coach than this. But these girls have been absolutely wonderful and have made it that much easier."

The Owls have weathered this part of the storm, but the backside of this emotional hurricane is surely ahead in the days and weeks to come.

More than likely, they'll endure it because they have an angel to watch over them, and sometimes, that and a little fearlessness are all you need to get by.

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