Although John Carroll has swept unbeaten through its boys volleyball schedule, three other teams are making an impact on the county standings.
In recent seasons, C. Milton Wright had offered the chief challenge to the Patriots, but not this time.
North Harford (7-1) and Fallston (7-1) are building on a strong showing of a year ago; while Havre de Grace (5-4) has been playing -- and winning -- like an experienced team instead of the first-year program it is putting on the floor.
This week's top game will be Tuesday, with North Harford visiting Fallston.
Among the leaders at North Harford are hitter Eric Hall and setters Randy Krastel and Phil Vacek. Joining them are Bob Day, whom second-year coach Paul Gain calls "a diamond in the rough -- very good defensively;" Greg Sams, the most improved player; defense-oriented Ron Low, and Steve Foley, who has shown good power.
"I could see this coming," Gain said. "We were 7-5 a year ago, returned some good players, and we jelled right from the beginning. There is a lot of individual talent coming together for a team effort. Everybody knows everybody else's position and we are able to run some sophisticated plays."
Last year was Dean Heffner's first as Fallston coach and the team produced an 11-3 record with mostly newcomers after a 5-7 record the previous season.
"Last year, we got the basics down and we lost two seniors and added four new players. We have so much depth, 16 players, yet there are still only three seniors. This is a third season for most, so we have been able to run a more complex offense."
The players include senior Max Reinholdt, rated a big part of the team, as Gain considers him a great all-around player; setters Robby Clary, a sophomore, and Don Fisher, a junior, who complement each other; plus 6-foot-4 juniors Aaron Wheeler and Mark Froehling.
At Havre de Grace, coach Kathy Graybeal faced an entirely different situation, as the school brought the sport back after a lapse of some 10-12 years.
"We have 13 players and they have been enthusiastic from the beginning. They are good athletes, receptive to learning the skills, and that has made my job easier," Graybeal said. "We spent a lot of time in the beginning just refining basic skills and teaching the rules."
Two of her tallest players are 6-3 senior Jon Carr, the No. 1 hitter, and 6-4 junior Kevin Gross, a blocker/hitter. Joining them are 6-1 Charlie Bomboy, a middle hitter/blocker; hitter Jody Hochstein; sophomore setter Joe Oliphant; freshman Josh White, a left-handed hitter, and David Briggs, a backup setter who is able to hit, too.
"Before the season, I had no idea what to expect," Graybeal said. "Our first match was the first day of school and we were ragged, but the county play day later in the week gave me a good idea about the other teams, and I thought we did quite well."
The best learning experience was likely the Fallston match, where Havre de Grace split the first two games and was up 12-6
in the third, before losing, 15-12.
The county title will revolve around two games this week, as Fallston is home against C. Milton Wright tomorrow night in a match-up of 4-0 league teams, and Fallston is home against North Harford Wednesday (3-1 going into tomorrow night's game at Joppatowne).
Fallston (4-0-1 in the county) is at North Harford (4-0-1) Tuesday afternoon in a game that likely will determine the county champ. Each has a 1-1 tie with C. Milton Wright (3-0-2), which will be at Bel Air on Tuesday night.
The county golf tournament will be at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday at Geneva Farm Golf Club, with all nine schools entered.