Just when you thought it was safe to go back on the volleyball courts, here come the sharks.
The Makos, the Great Whites, the Tigers, the Hammerhead Sharks and even the Killer Sharks have come to the county.
All are teams within the newly formed Anne Arundel County Volleyball Club.
The club, the county's first Junior Olympic volleyball program, includes seven girls squads and one for boys. It was organized by Broadneck volleyball coach Glenn Brainer.
Brainer had expected a small turnout, but 83 girls and 17 boys registered to play.
"We were overwhelmed with the turnout and excited to see that many people," said Brainer. "We could see that the need was there. We're just trying to fulfill it."
The Mako Sharks compete in the 18-, 16- and14-and-under categories. Tiger Sharks are in the 18- and 14-under groupings, and the Hammerheads and Great Whites are 16-and-under contingents.
The lone boys team, called the Killer Sharks, is an 18-and-under squad.
"To have boys be able to play, that's really good," said Brainer. "Eventually we want to get men's and women's teams, to get everybody involved. Maybe to have even kids starting out early at around 5 years old, like they do in other sports."
The governing body for the leagues is the United States Volleyball Association of the United States Junior Olympic Program.
The county club already has qualified its Mako 18- and 16-and-under teams to play in the 20-team Atlantic Rim Power League, a premier conference that conducts week end matches seven times over the next three months and includes teamsfrom Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.
The league mailed out about 150 letters to college coaches, informing them aboutthe competition for scouting purposes.
All eight of the county's teams can qualify for the national tournament in New Mexico in late June or early July.
To qualify for nationals, a team must finish among the top three in its age group of the April 26 Chesapeake regional championships at the University of Maryland.
In the meantime, the club's other six teams will compete in the Chesapeake Region, one of 32 regions across the country.
The six teams will play their matches using the round-robin tournament format, with 15 to 25 teams competing at any one site, two to three weekends per month.
Included in the Chesapeake region are Montgomery County's Capitol and Metro Volleyball clubs, Howard County's Columbia Volleyball Club and Deerfield of Prince George's County.
"A lot of county players were going to other clubs," said Brainer, adding that Glen Burnie and Severna Park have won the last two Class 4A-3A state volleyball titles. "I feel we have the best athletes in our state, and this is our chance to prove it."
The Mako 18-and-under squad went a long way toward doing that in Saturday's power league competition in Elizabeth, N.J., finishing second in its five-team division.
Coached by Tammy Brumwell and Theresa Smelser, the Mako squad includes three first-team All-County players in Meade's Vonnita Pinkett and two players from Broadneck in Nikki St. Clair and Julie Scott. Second-team All-County player Amy Neff (Meade), Kathy Brady (Arundel) and Penny Wolford (Queen Anne's) are also on the team.
"Julie Scott and Amy Neff had outstanding games spiking out there," said Brainer. "And Kathy Brady played great defense."
Beth Carey and Monzo Beans coach the Mako 16-and-under squad, which includes Holly McKleen and Jen Mitchell (both of Severna Park), North County's Leanne Jones, Old Mill's Mindy Kaplan, South River's Stacey Thomas and Broadneck's Julie Barr.
Other coaches include former Severna Park High School stars, Stacey Pirotte and Jen Erlandson (of the Tigers 18-and-under); South River's Melissa Dehlmann (16-and-under Great Whites); North County's Amy Williams (Mako, 14-and-under); Trudy McCormick (Mako, 14-and-under); and Jan Bowser (Hammerheads, 16-and-under).
"We've done well already by placing two teamsin the power league, and we've gotten a lot of support," said Brainer. "Our ultimate goal is to increase the level of play in our county."
The power-leaguers will play again next weekend at the University of Delaware.