FAVORITES HEBRON, CENTENNIAL HEAR FOOTSTEPS ON VOLLEYBALL COURT

THE BALTIMORE SUN

It's tempting to forecast the 1991 high school volleyball championship race as a two-team affair involving last year's titans, Mount Hebron and Centennial.

Hebron shook off a midseason blowout by Centennial, then put together an 11-game winning streak. The run included a rematch victory over Centennial for the county championship, then culminated with the Class 2A state title.

The Vikings lost two key players to graduation in hitter Andrea Day and setter/Player of the Year Melissa Murdza, but are well-equipped to defend their titles.

Centennial saw its 32-game winning streak -- dating to 1988 -- snapped by Glenelg. Soon after that run ended,Hebron denied Centennial the defense of its county title. North Carroll (Carroll County) then derailed the Eagles' state title defense inthe regional playoffs.

The Eagles may have finished on a disappointing note, but don't interpret that as a sign of weakness for the coming season. The program is as stable as ever, and Centennial returnsanother cast of skilled, versatile, experienced players who are poised to regain the glory of two years past.

The Vikings and Eagles clearly look like the class of the county. But that's not to say otherteams -- Atholton, Oakland Mills and Howard, chief among them -- won't push the league's twin towers on any given night.

Atholton, Oakland Mills and Howard formed the heart of a competitive second division last year, and each team returns a nucleus of talent that should keep them in the county title and playoff hunts.

Still, Hebron and Centennial have set the standard the rest of the league will chase.

"We should be up there with the big boys by the end of the season, but right now it (the favorite) has got to be those two (Hebron and Centennial)," says Atholton coach Jon Peterson.

Hebron is coming off the best season in school history, a 19-1 ride that had only one blemish -- a three-game, midseason blowout at Centennial. The Vikings then won their next 12 matches.

Replacing Melissa Murdza, who averaged 20 assists as the league's premier setter, is a top priority.

Second-year coach Jeannine McCrumb has three capable setters to fill the two-setter role required in her new 4-2 offense. Erin O'Donnell, a 5-foot-6 senior, 5-7 junior Kai Scott return, and KellyQuinn, a 5-5freshman with club volleyball experience, has caught McCrumb's eye.

"(Quinn) is better skill-wise than anyone I've had," McCrumb says."I'm very excited about her."

Quinn, however, won't be flashing her skills in the near future. She is trying to overcome a nagging back injury and may not play for several weeks.

Once the Vikings get their setter positions settled, they should be very tough. The strongnucleus of 5-9 seniors Tracy Porter, Brooke Christopher and Jen Dohler will make sure of that. Porter, the league's best passer and maybeits best player, led the team with four passing points per game. Shecan also block and play defense with the league's best. Christopher and Dohler each averaged a point block and combined for 10 kills per game.

Hebron also is in good shape in the service area.

Dohler had a 92 percent success rate and averaged two aces per match last year. Scott has the league's most devastating serve. More than a third of Scott's serves went for aces last year, and if she adds a few percentage points to last year's 87 percent average, the Vikings could beunstoppable.

"I'm afraid of us peaking too early, but they reallywant to repeat (as state champs)," McCrumb says. "They want to be a better volleyball team. I feel like I have a solid group of kids."

Centennial coach Bill Shook certainly can make the same claim, as the Eagles return seven players from last year's 14-4 team that lost inthe regional finals to North Carroll.

The Eagles peaked early. They tore through the first half of the season undefeated, then lost three of their last seven regular-season matches to finish two games behind Hebron.

"We lacked discipline. We forgot what it felt like tolose," Shook said. "They got that taste, and they definitely didn't like it."

The Eagles don't figure to taste defeat much this year.

They return seven players, six of whom either started or saw considerable playing time.

Although hitter/backcourt specialist Jenn Hermann is the team's lone senior, the Eagles have another strong blendof height, skills and experience, and should benefit from the promotion of several stars from last year's undefeated junior varsity.

They probably have more depth than anyone in the county.

Like Hebron, the key to Centennial's progress will be the development of its setters. Now that Sang Kim has graduated, junior returnee Sezin Omer (5-7) and sophomore newcomer Carrie Shadrick will share the position. Both are also exceptional servers.

Three junior returnees -- 5-6 Sandy Palasek, 5-7 Laura Taneyhill and 6-0 Shanon Saltzmann -- give theEagles lots of options. Saltzmann (2.5 point blocks, six kills) willbe a force in the middle, Taneyhill (6.5 kills, two aces) is a superb outside hitter, and Palasek can play anywhere.

Then there's sophomore Carly Cangiano, a 5-11 middle hitter who made big strides as a freshman and "is getting better by the day," says Shook.

"I've got10 players competing for six positions. Nice problems," Shook says.

Oakland Mills sneaked up on the league last year. The Scorpions finished 7-8, but in the process took Centennial, Hebron and Atholton to five games. No team was scrappier.

Seniors Marti Wiblin (5-5 hitter) and Heather Caldwell (5-6 setter) look primed to lead the Scorpions into county title and 2A regional playoff contention. Wiblin averaged 5.5 kills and 3.5 aces last year. Caldwell added 87 points.

Seniors Christine Brown (5-7 setter) brings more experience, while Jessica Viti (5-10 middle) and Keisha Reynolds (5-10 middle) give the Scorpions added strength around the net.

"I'm setting goals of finishing in the top three and going to the regionals," says Coach Kathy Swingle.

Atholton coach Jon Peterson won state championships in 1988 and 1989, but may have done his best coaching last year.

The Raiders struggled during the first month of the season with a young team, then came on strong in the county with a 10-5 record. They went on to win a regional title before Hebron eliminated them in the 2A semifinals.

Peterson will depend heavily on tri-captains Kelly Smith, Julie Ruprecht and Teri Griffen. Smith, a 6-foot junior hitter who also sets well, is the key. Ruprecht, a 5-4 senior, is an excellent server, while Griffin, a 5-8 senior, was an underrated hitter last year who Peterson wants to step forward with a big season.

Junior hitterKristen Pramik, the first player off the bench last year, moves intoa starting role.

Howard promises to be an interesting team, and could be a surprise contender. Two reasons for that are returning outside hitters Kara Gontkovic (5-9 senior) and Jenny Herron (5-6 junior).

The third reason is Coach Rich Asendorf, who guided Howard to a state title in 1980 before resigning.

After a decade as a volleyball official, Asendorf, who has taught social studies at Howard for 22years, is back on the bench.

1991 VARSITY VOLLEYBALL SCHEDULE

1991 varsity volleyball schedule

Friday Sept. 20... ... Hammond at Wilde Lake... ... 5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Glenelg at Atholton... ... . 5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Howard at Mt. Hebron... ... .5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Centennial at Oakland Mills. 5:15 p.m.

Wedn. Sept. 25... ... .Wilde Lake at Glenelg... ... 5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Atholton at Centennial... . 5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Oakland Mills at Howard... .5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Mt. Hebron at Hammond... .. 5:15 p.m.

Friday Sept. 27... ... Mt. Hebron at Wilde Lake... 5:15 p.m.

... ...... ... ... ...Howard at Atholton... ... . 5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Hammond at Oakland Mills... 5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Glenelg at Centennial... .. 5:15 p.m.

Wedn. Oct. 2... ... ..Centennial at Wilde Lake... 5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Atholton at Hammond... ... .5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Howard atGlenelg... ... .. 5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Oakland Mills... ... ... .. 5:15 p.m.

Friday Oct. 4... ... . Wilde Lake at Oakland Mills 5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Mt. Hebron at Atholton... . 5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Centennial at Howard... ... 5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Glenelg at Hammond... ... . 5:15 p.m.

Tuesday Oct. 8... ... Wilde Lake at Howard... ... .5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Oakland Mills at Atholton.. 5:15 p.m.

...... ... ... ... ...Hammond at Centennial... .. 5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Mt. Hebron at Glenelg... .. 5:15 p.m.

Friday Oct. 11... ... Atholton at Wilde Lake... .. 5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Howard at Hammond... ... .. 5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Glenelg at Oakland Mills... 5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Centennial at Mt. Hebron... 5:15 p.m.

Monday Oct. 14... ... Wilde Lake at Hammond... ... 5:15 p.m.

... .. ... ... ... ... Atholton at Glenelg... ... .5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Mt. Hebron at Howard... ... 5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Oakland Mills at Centennial 5:15 p.m.

Wedn. Oct. 16... ... . Glenelg at Wilde Lake... .. 5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Centennial at Atholton... . 5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Howard at Oakland Mills... .5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Hammond at Mt. Hebron... .. 5:15 p.m.

Friday Oct. 18... ... Wilde Lake at Mt. Hebron... .5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Atholton at Howard... ... . 5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Oakland Mills at Hammond... 5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ......Centennial at Glenelg... .. 5:15 p.m.

Tuesday Oct. 22... ... Wilde Lake at Centennial... 5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Hammond at Atholton... ... .5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Glenelg at Howard... ... .. 5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Mt. Hebron at Oakland Mills 5:15 p.m.

Tuesday Oct. 24... ... Howard at South Carroll... .6:45 p.m.

Friday Oct. 25... ... Oakland Mills at Wilde Lake. 5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Atholton at Mt. Hebron... . 5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Howard at Centennial... ... .5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... .. Hammond at Glenelg... ... ..5:15 p.m.

Tuesday Oct. 29... ... Howard at Wilde Lake... ... 5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Atholton at Oakland Mills.. 5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Centennial at Hammond... .. 5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Glenelg at Mt. Hebron... .. 5:15 p.m.

Friday Nov. 1... ... . Wilde Lake at Atholton... . 5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Hammond at Howard... ... .. 5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Oakland Mills at Glenelg... 5:15 p.m.

... ... ... ... ... ...Mt Hebron at Centennial... .5:15 p.m.

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