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Volleyball camp for Harford County high schoolers readies players for upcoming season

Camper Daniella Militello, center, stays focused on the ball as she and her partner Cece Kearney, left, go through a setting drill during high school volleyball camp at Fallston Parks and Recreation Veronica "Roni" Chenowith activity center Tuesday.
Camper Daniella Militello, center, stays focused on the ball as she and her partner Cece Kearney, left, go through a setting drill during high school volleyball camp at Fallston Parks and Recreation Veronica "Roni" Chenowith activity center Tuesday. (Matt Button / The Aegis/Baltimore Sun Media)

Marking its seventh year, a high school volleyball camp hosted by Fallston Rec is taking place this week in the confines of the Chenowith Activity Center Gym.

Camp creator and director Mark Swatling and a handful of volunteer staff helpers work with a wide range of talent, in an effort to ready all for their upcoming high school tryouts and seasons. The camp is open to rising freshman through seniors.

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This year’s camp is obviously different, with the unknown, but likely decision coming that seasons will be canceled due the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Still, the training and teaching goes on for roughly 40 athletes who are split into two sessions. The camp runs Monday through Thursday with the first session at 5-6:45 p.m. and the latter at 7-8:45 p.m.

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“The whole philosophy is to get folks ready for their high school tryouts. We’re all just here, you saw, there’s different high schools out here to represent one school or the other, but it’s really just to get the players in the best position possible to pick up some of the skills to get them ready for their high school tryouts,” Swatling said.

“Who knows this year what that will look like, if there will be any high school tryouts, but the fact of the matter remains, there’s really not much opportunity. Not a lot of kids have the opportunity to learn this game other than what they might pick up at gym class. So that’s the intent, to raise the skill level and get focus ready for the tryouts and get them to feel a little confident going in. Maybe give the coaches in the county a little more talent to work with.”

High school volleyball camp Director Mark Swatling, back, explains the proper technique for setting the ball at Fallston Parks and Recreation Veronica "Roni" Chenowith activity center Tuesday.
High school volleyball camp Director Mark Swatling, back, explains the proper technique for setting the ball at Fallston Parks and Recreation Veronica "Roni" Chenowith activity center Tuesday. (Matt Button / The Aegis/Baltimore Sun Media)

On this night, the campers drilled on digs, sets and kills. Proper hand, head and foot work stressed in each aspect.

“Some of them, this is their first time and we’ve got a couple of 12th graders that are just here, ready to knock the rust off,” Swatling added. “We get a wide range of talent here, some that are new to the game, some that are real experienced and we serve it all.”

Hooper Hichkad is a sophomore at C. Milton Wright and first time camper.

“This is my first year playing volleyball, I’m gonna try out for the JV team at C. Milton Wright, so it’s really good to focus on fundamentals, not just the high level stuff, because anyone can improve with fundamentals,” Hichkad said. “I’m a long athlete of basketball, around 11 years, so I have the athleticism to play volleyball, so I’ve been compensating a lot of my technique for that, so it’s good that they’re teaching the basics as well.”

Hichkad is well aware of the chance there won’t be a season. “There’s always next year because I’m not a senior, so I’ll just keep training. I have other sports I play too, we’ll see what they do for winter sports and I play lacrosse too, so that’s a spring time sport,” he said. “Just kind of keep the training going and then, if there’s not a season, just pray there’s one next year.”

Camper Cooper Hichkad goes up for the hit at the net during a drill at the high school volleyball camp at Fallston Parks and Recreation Veronica "Roni" Chenowith activity center Tuesday.
Camper Cooper Hichkad goes up for the hit at the net during a drill at the high school volleyball camp at Fallston Parks and Recreation Veronica "Roni" Chenowith activity center Tuesday. (Matt Button / The Aegis/Baltimore Sun Media)

Cara Hoover is an incoming freshman at CMW and also a first year camper.

“It’s really beneficial and its really helpful for high school, going into it,” Hoover said. “This is just my second time playing ever.” Hoover played volleyball last year in a rec setting.

“I hope to have learned all the basic skills that are needed and to help me get on the high school team,” Hoover said. She also has a plan if the 2020 season is canceled. “I’m just gonna keep practicing for the next season and will try to make that one,” she said.

All campers and anyone in the gym wore masks and social distancing was observed. “Safety was paramount to make sure this was a safe environment,” Swatling said.

High School volleyball camp Director Mark Swatling watches campers as they go through drills at Fallston Parks and Recreation Veronica "Roni" Chenowith activity center Tuesday.
High School volleyball camp Director Mark Swatling watches campers as they go through drills at Fallston Parks and Recreation Veronica "Roni" Chenowith activity center Tuesday. (Matt Button / The Aegis/Baltimore Sun Media)

Swatling played NCAA Division I men’s volleyball at Navy and was a team captain in the 1980s. He has coached club volleyball and he’s been a part of USA Volleyball, helping to seek out the best-of-the-best players to represent the USA.

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The camp staffers are Kristine Bagrosky, Sarah Markland, Layna Douglass, Cara McLaughlin and Anthony Sijera.

“If they walk out of here with some fun, maybe learn one or two things, get some exercise, that’s a great day,” Swatling said.

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