Lesson learned, Reservoir surges on

ON HIGH SCHOOLS

Varsity

October 16, 2007|By MILTON KENT

The warning on the passenger-side car mirror that objects are closer than they appear has been taken to heart by the No. 2 Reservoir girls volleyball team.

The Gators continue to speed toward what would be the first state championship in the six-year history of the school, with last year's run to the title game a not-so-distant and slightly painful memory.

In the state 2A championship match against North East of Cecil County, Reservoir won the first two games, then lost the next three, leaving a pothole everyone connected with the program is trying to steer around.

"It's not a focal point," Reservoir coach Carole Ferrante said. "If it's there, good for them that they're using it as a tool to motivate themselves. But it is not something in the forefront. We don't dwell on it and we don't talk about it. We just try to play every game better than we played the last. We just want every single thing to be a little bit better."

To date, Reservoir (11-0) has largely maneuvered through the speed trap that is Howard County volleyball unscathed in much the same manner as it did last year, in winning the league and 2A South regional title, beating five straight top-10 opponents along the way.

Just this past week, the Gators beat perennial power No. 10 Centennial at home, then came back Thursday to topple fifth-ranked River Hill on the road, losing the first game of the match, then winning the next three. Last night, they defeated Glenelg at home, winning all three games.

"It was all so exciting because all of the teams [we've beaten] are very good and it's very good competition," sophomore outside hitter Julie Poston said. "That makes it really exciting to be a part of those wins that we have."

Ferrante, last year's All-Metro Coach of the Year, took particular pride in the way the Gators, who quickly fell behind 9-1 in Thursday's first game, closed the gap to one before losing, 25-21.

"A lot of kids would just fall apart," Ferrante said. "We are very much in that society right now where if you're not winning everything and if you're behind a little bit, then you're going to quit. You're not going to win anyway. My girls don't have that."

The Gators take their cue, in that regard, from their feisty coach, who has a 42-6 record in nearly three seasons at Reservoir, an .875 winning percentage.

"She is amazing," said senior Jamie Huffman, who leads the offense along with Poston from the other outside hitter post. "She puts everything into this team: her heart, her life, everything. It's a blessing to have that kind of instruction. She just knows so much about the game at every position. It's really nice to have her insight."

While Huffman and Poston spark the offense, the Gators, who return seven players from last year, likely will hang their championship chances on their defense, anchored by senior libero Alex Kuper, whom Ferrante calls "the best defensive player in the state."

Oh, and about that championship: Huffman said the discussion about the North East match last year is mostly from people outside Reservoir's locker room. But that's not to say the Gators aren't aware that of what has been said and how they can quell that talk.

"We've [made] peace with it [last year's title match], but it's a learning process," Huffman said. "Last year, we got there and we didn't pull through. But we learned exactly what we needed to do to get through this year. I think we'd be more successful if we got that far this year."

If nothing else, last year's heartbreak has taught Reservoir that the journey truly ends only when you get to the destination, not when it gets within sight.

"Last year, we had a little bit of, `This team's not so good and we still did well,' " Ferrante said. "This year, I love their determination of, `Every single team is a team we have to beat.' There's no walkovers, and I love it."

milton.kent@baltsun.com

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