Rec volleyball squads find a good game, fine company

Co-ed league fields gung-ho players, those who just want to have fun

October 19, 2005|By JEFF SEIDEL | JEFF SEIDEL,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Eric Wellens began playing volleyball on Florida beaches years ago. It helps him have fun and forget the pressure that come with his day job as an attorney.

But he found another way to enjoy the sport after moving to Maryland several years ago. The Severna Park resident joined Anne Arundel County's adult co-ed volleyball league that plays every fall and winter, and he coaches one of its best teams. However, even though Wellens' Shooters club has fared nicely, he just enjoys playing.

"It's a Sunday afternoon that always seems to interfere with Ravens," Wellens said with a laugh. "But we keep on playing. We really enjoy it."

The league is split into two divisions, with more skilled teams in the "A" league and others in the "B" league. Five teams are in each division this fall.

The teams play Sunday afternoons over a nine-match season, followed by a single-elimination playoff tournament. Each match is a full three-game - not best-of-three - affair, with wins and losses totaled to seed teams for the post-season.

League coordinator Lee Hood was asked by a former Anne Arundel County Recreation and Parks employee to help launch the league about 11 years ago. Hood and Rec and Parks felt there was interest - but that it would take work to get it going. So they spread the word through newspaper advertisements and word-of-mouth.

Hood said the program had eight teams the first year but kept them all in one league. In later years, the teams split into the two divisions because of skill differences. Two years later, a women's program was launched. That league also now fields four teams for its Wednesday-night matches - but Hood said the league is constantly looking for players and teams.

Jeff Porter is the league supervisor for Rec and Parks. He said the many returning players have been crucial.

"They've seen the same faces for years," said Porter. "It helps a lot because you don't have a lot of contention. They all have been playing with each other for years. They just want to go out there and have fun."

Hood agreed, saying it's often like friends getting together who just happen to play volleyball.

"It's a family affair, sometimes a rough family, but there are nice people here," Hood said.

Porter and Hood agreed that there's a mix of players who just want to have fun and others who like to play and win. The groups seem to blend well most times.

However, Porter said that just because the league has a solid group of players doesn't mean organizers have to stop looking. Hood agreed that they are always looking for more players and teams. The size of the program moves in cycles: While there are only five teams in each division of the co-ed league this year, in other years there have been seven or eight teams.

"You get a certain group of people, and that group gets older and you try to keep younger ones coming in," Porter said. "I think that these are people who played volleyball in high school or college, and we also get some that just want to play.

Sean McGuire has played in the league for about two years. He coaches and competes with the Glory Days "A" division team and has a good time.

McGuire, an Annapolis resident, began playing volleyball several years ago while living in California and likes how teams can have fun while playing a competitive game.

"It's just hanging out with your friends," McGuire said. "It's a nice league, and it's organized well, and things are done really well. It's a nice way to go and relax."

Wellens has many of the same feelings and plays on a team that has been together for about four years. His wife, Tara, is on the team and serves as assistant coach. They have nine players on the roster - six can play at once - and many often will have lunch or dinner together after matches.

Wellens is proud that his team has won the past two championships, but he enjoys the friendships he has made just as much.

"We're in the `A' division, so it's more competitive," Wellens said. "We want to win, but we're there really just to find a good game."

jseid1234@yahoo.com

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