Atholton's Smith juggles all of her roles


Kelly Smith has been experiencing an identity crisis on the volleyball court this season.

After leading the county in kills the past two years, the 5-foot-11 senior from Atholton High has seen her role change about as often as her team changes sides of the net.

"She's one of the best hitters we have in the county and I've asked her to be a setter and middle blocker," said Atholton coach Jon Peterson. "I've asked Kelly to do a lot of things and she's really come through for me."

In nine matches this season -- seven wins and two losses -- Smith has recorded 38 aces while serving with 93 percent efficiency. She also has 96 kills (a 3.3 per-game average), 14 blocks and 67 assists.

A three-year starter, Smith led the county last season with 155 kills and led the Raiders with 23 blocks and 38 aces.

Centennial coach Bill Shook got a chance to see Smith when his team defeated Atholton in three straight games Oct. 2. While he admits to being impressed with her individual skills, Shook believes her added responsibilities are counter-productive.

"Kelly has got a lot of hidden talent, but I don't think her team is utilizing her in her best sense," said Shook, whose Eagles are seeking their sixth county title and second consecutive 3A state championship.

"I think they're misusing her. They're not drilling her enough as a hitter. She has a lot of raw talent and natural ability, but I think a lot of it is going to waste."

Severna Park coach Tim Dunbar worked with Smith over the summer when she joined the Virginia-based Capital Volleyball Club's 18-and-under select team, and he thinks her increased work load at Atholton will help in the long haul.

"She probably won't be a setter in college, but in high school you have to do more, and I think she's become a more versatile player in the process," said Dunbar, whose Severna Park squad is ranked No. 1 in the metro area with an 8-0 record. "Jon Peterson is lucky to have a kid like Kelly. She never complains and she takes practice as seriously as she does the games. I think she's got a tremendous future ahead of her in volleyball."

Smith, a Howard County Sun second-team All-County selection last season, said she enjoys her role and the non-stop action that comes with it. She said she uses that time to improve her skills and market herself to college recruiters.

"I think college [scouts] want to see that you can do a lot of things," said Smith, who cites James Madison University as her college of choice. "People think that I have to do a lot when I'm on the floor, but I love it.

"It's fun knowing that you'll be touching the ball at least once every time it comes over the net. That's how the game is played in high school."

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