Player of the Year: Michelle Clarke, Towson
The consummate setter, Clarke, a four-year starter and co-captain, was clearly the catalyst of the school's first state championship. The Class 2A state title was the highlight of the Generals' history-making season, which also included their first Baltimore County title since 1966 and their first final since 1977.
Clarke the Baltimore City/County Player of the Year, led the charge with 496 assists, an average of 8.0 a game.
"We could not have done it without her, " said Towson coach Jayne Lacy, whose team won its second straight regional title this fall.
In leading No. 2-ranked Towson to a 19-1 record, Clarke was on top of her game in the playoffs. She had 31 assists in a 3-0 state final victory over No. 5 Glenelg, 28 assists in a 3-0 semifinal victory over Lackey of Charles County, and 43 assists in a 3-0 Class 2A North region final victory over Owings Mills. In regular-season wins over Lansdowne and Milford Mill, Clarke had 36 assists and 10 aces, respectively. In the team's season-opening, 3-1 loss to Severna Park, Clarke had a season-high 45 assists.
"It's amazing how well Michelle puts it all together," said Lacy. Clarke was also a key member of the Orange Crush 17-and-under club team that finished 17th at the USA Junior Nationals in July.
Coach of the Year: Julie Allen, Severna Park
Schooled on the benefits of playing a tough schedule to be ready down the stretch, Allen had no fears looking at the Falcons' schedule. Allen returned to her alma mater this year as Severna Park coach after a record-setting playing career at UNC-Wilmington. She led the Falcons to a 20-1 season with wins over seven top-10 teams, Anne Arundel County and regional titles, and a trip to the Class 3A state final. The Falcons finished No. 1 in The Sun's poll for the first time since 1995, Allen's senior year. Allen was a two-time All-Metro as a hitter under her mentor, Tim Dunbar, whose belief in a tough schedule led to three state titles, the last in Allen's sophomore year of 1993 (22-0). "I like the pressure of a tough schedule because it makes the girls step up and play at a higher level," said Allen, 23, a physical trainer who describes herself as a "quiet person" when she is not coaching. "You can only get better." The Falcons opened 3-0 against ranked teams, including eventual 2A state champion Towson, and later defeated 4A state champ Broadneck twice, the last in the Anne Arundel County final. The only loss was to eight-time state champion Northern-Calvert in the 3A final, and Allen took it in stride. "Northern played better than we did, but I'm proud of my girls, " she said. "They can hold their heads high."
Veronica Briggs, Dulaney
Injuries forced frequent lineup changes, but the one constant for the No. 4-ranked Lions (15-3) was the consistent play of this 5-foot-6 senior outside hitter. Briggs was the Lions' main offensive weapon. Despite the added pressure to produce, the feisty Briggs used her 25-inch vertical leap and exceptional jump serve to punch 2.7 kills per game and 2.8 aces. Briggs, also a member of the Orange Crush club team, had a season-high 18 kills in a 3-1 upset of then No. 1 Centennial and played her heart out in a 3-1 loss at top ranked Severna Park. Coach Ian Blanchard had only one sub available at Severna Park, and Briggs did her best to keep the Lions competitive with 14 kills and six aces, but their 46-match winning streak, which included two 4A state titles, ended. Briggs is being recruited by several Division II and III schools.
Lindsay Feller, Centennial
The Eagles' bid for a sixth consecutive state title and 11th overall failed, but not because of any drop-off in play by Feller. Last year's Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year, the 6-foot-1 senior hitter had 166 kills, just 11 fewer than in her junior season, and her total aces soared from 17 to 53. Despite her team-high 13 kills, the Eagles lost their first match of the season, 3-1, to Dulaney on Sept. 20, and it would prove to be the defining moment in their rare non-state championship season. Feller, who will continue her career at Northeastern, is a dominating blocker and hitter with a wicked jump serve. This season, she worked hard to improve her defense, said coach Mike Bossom. Feller leaves the Howard County powerhouse Eagles with three state titles and a four-year record of 66-9. Feller was invited to play at the USA Development Camp this summer.
Hallie Fuller, Broadneck
A two-time All-County setter as a junior this season, Fuller, 5 feet 8, was a team leader in the No. 3-ranked Bruins' run to their first state title in Class 4A. Fuller averaged 8.3 assists, including a school-record 49 in a four-game win over No. 13 Westminster in the 4A East region final. In the 4A state tournament, Fuller totaled 45 assists in victories over Gaithersburg and Eleanor Roosevelt for the crown. Her 27-for-29 serving in the five-game marathon over Gaithersburg was crucial, along with her constant assurances to teammates every time things would look bleak. Coach Romonzo Beans said, "It wasn't what I said that kept them going. It's what Hallie and a couple others kept telling each other." Fuller averaged 2.5 service aces and 2.5 kills for the Bruins (17-3). She plays with several Severna Park players on the BAVA club team.
Stephanie Kines, Towson
Able to suspend her 5-foot-11 frame in the air for seemingly an eternity, Kines got more than just a peek at open spots to land her kills. Considered by many to be Baltimore County's premier hitter, the junior moved up from last year's second-team All-Metro season by averaging 2.7 kills for the Class 2A state champions. Kines, who has precise timing on her powerful approach, had 10 kills in each of two state tournament sweeps of Lackey and No. 5 Glenelg, giving her seven matches with 10 or more kills. The three-year varsity standout also had five solo blocks in a 3-0 win over Owings Mills in the 2A North region final. They closed with 43 consecutive game wins. Kines possesses power but also has an effective soft delivery, the result of her instinctive feel for the situation. In addition, Kines showed her versatility, serving 82 percent (149-for-182) with 43 aces in the regular season, including a season-high seven against Pikesville, and averaged 2.4 digs.
Lauren Klau, Severna Park
Anne Arundel County's Player of the Year and a three-time All-County hitter, Klau, 6 feet 1, was the physical and mental leader of the top-ranked Falcons. Dominating in the front row, athletic and vocal, the Towson University-bound senior exemplified the meaning of intensity. "In every sport, one or two people keep everyone together, and Lauren was that for us, " said coach Julie Allen. "She was the loudest out there." The senior led the Falcons to a 20-1 record, the only loss to Northern-Calvert in the Class 3A state final. In that match, Klau had five blocks, four kills and was 13-for-13 serving. She finished the season with a team-leading 201 kills (3.1 per) and was second to Christina Grempler's 75 blocks kills with 65. She delivered on her preseason personal goal to improve her serving and defense in the back row. The Falcons also regained their county championship from 4A state champion Broadneck, rallying from a 2-0 deficit to win behind Klau's 20 kills, 16 digs and 17-for-18 serving. In the regular-season match between the two, Klau had 13 kills and eight blocks in a 3-1 Falcons win.
Megan Mitchell, River Hill
A four-year starter for the Hawks, the 5-foot-6 hitter earned Howard County Player of the Year honors as a senior. It's commonly agreed in Howard County that no one did more for her team. Mitchell served 97 percent on 338 of 349 attempts and had 60 aces. Known for her defense and all-out play that resulted in 269 digs, she also excelled on offense, with 184 kills. Mitchell had a knack for game-deciding points. In a 3-0 victory over Class 2A finalist Glenelg in the final regular-season match, Mitchell had nine kills, six aces, one block and 10 digs. "I try to play with intensity and hope it picks everyone else up, " said Mitchell. She hopes to play volleyball and softball for Western Maryland.
Name School Class Position
Jessica Allen C. Milton Wright Junior Hitter
Krystal Jacobson River Hill Senior Hitter
Chelsea Lyon CHEN Senior Hitter
Sarah Tursell Glenelg Junior Hitter
Kelsey Tyree Centennial Senior Hitter
Megan Boyd Severna Park Senior Setter
Erin Farabaugh Broadneck Senior Setter/hitter
Laurie Shand Liberty Junior Setter
Note: The All-Metro volleyball teams were selected by Pat O'Malley after consultation with The Sun staff and area coaches.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun