Tournament gives local enthusiasm for volleyball a bounce

Fostering a spike in sports interest

April 25, 2007|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,Special to The Sun

Lauren Boyd spends her days poring over numbers and pondering lofty economic issues as a financial adviser in downtown Baltimore. She spends most of her nights teaching, coaching and playing volleyball in Anne Arundel County.

Boyd, who played volleyball for Severna Park High and Gettysburg College, serves as commissioner of the county-based Bay Area Volleyball Academy. Last weekend, she helped oversee BAVA's invitational tournament at Maryland Sportsplex, where 160 girls from Maryland, Virginia and Delaware competed.

"Volleyball has been a strong sport in the county, but only at the high school level," Boyd said. "We are really trying to focus on the kids ... before they get to high school. We want to get them involved in the sport."

Boyd didn't pick up the game until eighth grade but has been making up for lost time ever since. Five years after her college career ended, she continues playing on a women's club team that competes through BAVA and features a number of ex-Severna Park players. She's also a volunteer assistant at Severna Park High and coaches a 15-and-under team.

"It's a lot of fun and challenging," Boyd said. "But it's so neat to see them progress throughout the season and get better and just enjoy the sport."

She's also helping build the next generation of great volleyball players. Severna Park High School has been a powerhouse in volleyball: The Falcons won state championships in 1976 and 1978, then three in a row from 1991 to 1993. In addition, they've made the state final four nine times, most recently in 2001.

There's always been a strong interest in the sport. But with Sportsplex opening up about 18 months ago right down the road from Severna Park, it's helped volleyball's popularity because it offers a new place to practice and schedule tourneys.

Jamie Leventry finished his first season as the varsity coach at Severna Park last fall and also runs a 15-and-under BAVA team. Sportsplex and BAVA work together to run recreation-level teams and club-level (tougher competition) squads. Leventry said they've recently started volleyball clinics for girls ages 9 to 14.

"It's really starting to explode in that ... age group," Leventry said. "We're starting to get more and more girls who are seeing their older sisters play, and they want to learn."

As is the case with soccer, girls who are interested in playing volleyball at the college level and possibly earning a scholarship work at it year-round now. Until a few years ago, good athletes would often play two or three sports a year in high school, but that's changing.

Some girls who juggle more than one sport in high school join a volleyball team the rest of the year. From Anne Arundel County, club teams compete in the Chesapeake region against teams from Pennsylvania through Northern Virginia.

Terri Staley of Annapolis and said she's glad that her daughter, Stephanie Marrie, has found a sport that she likes. Marrie plays on BAVA's 15-and-under Cyclones with Jessica Izumi, whose mother also sees a lot of good in tournaments like this.

"I think it's a wonderful opportunity for the girls to play against other teams and meet some other kids," said Sue Izumi. "It keeps them in shape year-round, especially for high school volleyball."

Boyd, who went on to become an All-Centennial Conference player at Gettysburg, realizes how much it means for volleyball players to keep working on their games. It's another reason Boyd enjoys coaching.

"I love it, and that's why I'm here," she said. "I want the girls to be able to have the passion I have for the sport."

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