Softball is a big part of the Van Meter sisters' lives, and the Van Meter sisters are a big part of the Archbishop Spalding softball team

Family benefits

May 02, 2007|By Glenn Graham | Glenn Graham,SUN REPORTER

Whenever Archbishop Spalding junior right fielder Meghan Van Meter needs a bit of reassurance on the softball field, a quick look to her right provides it.

It could be a simple nod, some encouraging words, or a hint to take a step back or in with a particular batter at the plate. And if she does something wrong, older sister Sloane, who has played center field the past four years for the Cavaliers, will let her know about that, too.

"I first wanted to play softball because of Sloane," Meghan said. "Because she's been there for me all my life, she knows what brings me up and makes me feel better. Sloane is just so good, hearing her say, `Meghan, you're having a really good game,' makes me feel great because I'm hearing it from someone who really knows the game and plays so well."

Meghan, who worked her way into the starting lineup last season, has been hearing those words a lot these days. Coming into her own this spring batting third in the Cavaliers' potent lineup, she has a .313 average with eight RBIs and seven runs scored. As for Sloane, an All-Metro standout since batting .506 as a freshman, it's much of the same in the leadoff spot: a .353 average with a team-high 12 runs and eight RBIs.

The Van Meter sisters have played a big role in helping the No. 2 Cavaliers (12-3) win the past two Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championships, and the two would like nothing better than to add a third before Sloane moves on to UMBC next year.

"They really love this game," Spalding first-year coach Paul O'Brien said. "Actually, I think the team in general does, and that's why Spalding softball has always been so special. You can really see a passion there for the game, and the Van Meter sisters personify that. The time they put in is not time they would consider a huge sacrifice. You can see how much fun they have while they're playing, and that's huge."

To get an idea as to where all that passion comes from with the two sisters, a quick question to their father and summer ball coach gives it away.

When asked if he had a minute to talk softball, Steve Van Meter laughs before replying: "Usually when I talk softball it lasts a lot longer than a minute."

Steve has been coaching Sloane since he formed an under-10 recreation league softball team, and Meghan quickly followed. The two play summer ball for his Maryland Wagners select team, which travels all over the country to compete in tournaments.

When she was younger, Meghan made sure to put her two cents in as far as helping her father/coach pick out the tournaments the team played in.

"She'd be like, `No, Dad, we can't play at that tournament,' and I'd ask her why. She'd say it didn't have a good concession stand and then say, `At this tournament they have good nachos,'" Steve said.

Said Sloane: "I just always remember that we were always thought of as not only `the sisters' but also `the coach's daughters,' so we were expected not to necessarily be perfect, but to know what was right and what was wrong."

Watching them play, it's apparent how much they have taken to softball.

"Sloane came in as a freshman and produced right away. And she did so very modestly. It wasn't like she ever walked around as a freshman like she was this or that. She just went out and played her game," said former coach and Spalding alumna Nicki Trumpler, who spent the previous two years as coach and recently accepted a position as the school's vice principal. "And then along came Meghan, and sometimes when you get sisters together, it's like the one feels like she's playing in the shadow of the other or has to live up to the other one. But Meghan was able to come in, work hard and make her own name."

This season, it is Sloane's role to be a leader as a team captain. It's a responsibility she enjoys and thrives on. Hitting leadoff and patrolling the outfield in center helps.

"Leading off gives me a chance to get things started and I want the girls to follow me," she said. "In center field, I can see the whole field in front of me. Plus, it also helps that a lot of girls we play in high school, we play with or against in the summer, so I know where to pitch them and where they're going to hit the ball."

Each win and loss is certain to be followed by a roundtable discussion at the dinner table.

"Dad will give his input and then I will give my input," Sloane said. "Then Meghan will give her input and sometimes Mom will give hers - but usually she's just repeating what Dad says. It's so funny."

With the playoffs set to start next week, the Cavaliers are primed for a third straight championship. With Seton Keough and Institute of Notre Dame also right there and John Carroll in the mix, the sisters know it will be no easy task. That's just fine by them.

"It comes down to practicing hard and working as a team, and this team does that really well," Meghan said. "I'm going to miss ... playing with Sloane, but I'll still play with her over the summer. Next year, I've got to be a role model. Just seeing her do so well makes me want to work hard and follow in her footsteps, like getting a college scholarship."

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