Teams at a glance

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Annapolis Panthers

1998 record: 2-15

Coach: Karla McMahon, 10th season

Top players: Meghan Fisher, Sr., outside hitter; Misty Waters, Jr., setter; Ashley Bland, Sr., outside hitter; Christy Kehoe, So., setter.

Outlook: Following the 14-2 banner season of 1997, the Panthers slipped badly in '98 the result of graduation losses. McMahon is optimistic her team can turn it around this season with serving and the blend of two experienced varsity players in Fisher and Waters with a young nucleus. "We don't have a lot of height and middle blocker, but we hope to make it for that with hustle and strong serving, " said McMahon. "I'm counting on a few younger players to contribute." Despite being a senior, Bland is a newcomer and joins Kehoe, sophomore Danielle Tucker and junior Tiesha Hopkins as bright newcomers.

Annapolis Area Christian Eagles

1998 record: 15-5

Coach: Dave Leith, third season

Top players: Ashleigh Verrillo, Sr., setter; Ruth Woodward, Sr., outside hitter; Becky Evans, Sr., setter/hitter; Dani Matousek, So., outside hitter; Christy DeHencel, So., outside hitter.

Outlook: After going 33-8 over the last two seasons as an independent, Leith is rebuilding. The coach is counting on his three returning varsity players, the 5-6 Verrillo, who he says is "the best setter in the county," and outside hitters Woodward and Evans for leadership and production. "After scrimmaging, I'm a little more optimistic than I was," said Leith, who has employed the 6-2 swing offense. JV grads Matousek (5-5) and DeHencel (5-10) should contribute. The Eagles play five county public schools, Chesapeake, Meade, Northeast, Old Mill and Glen Burnie. AACS also hopes to enter a Severna Park tournament later this month. "It will be interesting to see how we fare against the caliber of teams like Severna Park," said Leith, who wants to be in a league by next year.

Archbishop Spalding Cavaliers

1998 record: 15-4

Coach: Scott Rombach, second season

Top players: Jen Datz, Sr., hitter/setter; Kristin Marll,, So. hitter; Bridget LaPorte, Sr., defense; Cristy Lynch, Jr., defense.

Outlook: Rombach succeeds Linda Taylor for the second time in two seasons, this time for good. Last year Rombach, a veteran JV coach, coached the varsity for several weeks while Taylor was on maternity leave. Taylor, who remains the school's softball coach, has since resigned as volleyball coach after 10 seasons and a career record of 109-35. Rombach hopes to carry on the winning tradition established by Taylor who won nine regular season or tournament championships in the Catholic League. "With the merger of the Catholic and Independent leagues, we have a lot of unanswered question marks but should do fairly well, as in the past," said Rombach. He's banking on second-team All-County hitter/setter Datz for leadership and is excited about the potential shown by Marll and defensive specialists LaPorte and Lynch. Newcomer Kacie Kagalis, a junior setter, is also expected to contribute.

Arundel Wildcats

1998 record: 11-7

Coach: Greg Legrand, second season

Top players: Sara Meger, Sr., outside hitter; Leslie Chandler, Jr., setter; Najimah Fauntleroy, Jr., middle hitter; Kelly Moore, Jr., outside hitter; Melissa Scott, Jr., defense.

Outlook: Legrand made quite a debut last season, turning an 0-15 team into an 11-7 squad to earn Sun County Coach of the Year honors. It was Arundel's first winning season since 1990, and the 11 wins were half of the number they won in five previous seasons (22-58). Legrand, a Maryland grad, put in a 6-2 swing offense that stacks the front line on one side and rotates to free up the hitters. The scheme confused opponents and occasionally the referees. Legrand hopes to hone it this season with Chandler setting up and Meger, Moore and Fauntleroy, a 6-foot All-County basketball forward as a sophomore, handling the bulk of the attack. "We lost a lot of seniors but have a good nucleus to replace them," said Legrand. "Our team is not very volleyball knowledgeable, but they are athletic. So it's a matter of how quick they can develop their skills. We expect to have a pretty good season."

Broadneck Bruins

1998 record: 10-5

Coach: Romanzo Beans, third season

Top players: Nicole Barr, Jr., setter; Alice Osborne, Sr., middle hitter; Katie Henschel, Sr., outside hitter; Jen Kanach, Sr., hitter; Angela Kahler, Jr., middle hitter.

Outlook: Beans led the Bruins to double-digit wins last fall after going 7-8 his rookie season. He has a seasoned, tall group led by second-team All-County hitter Barr, 5-11 and a starter since her freshman year. She'll set this fall for Beans and his assistant coach and wife Bev, who are counting on her leadership. Osborne, a three-year starter, has developed into a strong hitter who works well defensively with Henschel. Two other hitters, Kanach and Kahler, are 5-10 and 5-11, respectively. Junior hitter Sam Sayserth (5-5) and 5-7 freshman Halle Fuller, a transfer from Ohio, has potential as a setter. The majority of the Bruins have played a lot of club ball with the Chesapeake and Columbia teams, and the experience will help in Broadneck's step to Class 4A and its powerhouses, Severna Park and Glen Burnie.

Chesapeake Cougars

1998 record: 3-12

Coach: Mike Gimon, first season

Top players: Suzie Shrimpton, Sr., hitter; Katie Bland, Jr., hitter; Sara Vogt, So., hitter/setter; Justine Wagner, Sr., hitter; Chrystal Ford, Sr., setter.

Outlook: Gimon was elevated from assistant to head coach when Shannon Pastrana stepped down after one season to pursue graduate work. Wagner should be one of the county's stronger hitters as Gimon attempts to get the Cougars back to the winning ways they last had under Christy Simonds in 1997 (13-4). "With four returning varsity players, we will be a lot better, and our focus is getting to the county championship," said Gimon. "We know how to cover the hitting lanes."

Glen Burnie Gophers

1998 record: 9-3

Coach: Kevin Guite, second season

Top players: Tiffany Jordan, Sr., middle hitter; Michelle Whitlock, Sr., setter; Kristen Shacklock, Sr., setter/outside hitter; Denise Schultheis, Jr., middle hitter.

Outlook: Guite lost seven seniors from a team that suffered two of its three losses to Class 4A state finalist and No. 2-ranked Severna Park. "Despite the loss, we're anticipating a successful 1999 season with the returning group matched with some very good younger players," said Guite, who led the Gophers to their 21st consecutive winning season and No. 9 ranking in The Sun's Top 15. Jordan (5-10), a second team All-County defender/hitter, Whitlock (5-4) and Shacklock (5-7) are the three key seniors with junior Schultheis (5-10) a returning starter as well. Guite says that nucleus is expected to give the Gophers "a really tough defensive team backing what I hope is an aggressive offensive line-up. We expect to have another winning season."

Meade Mustangs

1998 record: 7-8

Coach: Joyce Wills, first season

Top players: Jennie Stevens, Sr., setter; Danielle Gomer, Sr., outside hitter; Tracy Welsh, Jr., setter; Julie Kuhns, Sr., hitter. Outlook: Wills succeeds Vicki Hedgebeth who retired after 13 seasons as Mustang coach. Meade improved from a 3-12 campaign in '97 to 6-9 last fall but has not had a winning season since 1995, when they were 8-6. Stevens and Robinson sparkled in the team's season ending 3-0 loss to Westminster in the Class 4A quarterfinals, and the new coach is looking for them to be the leaders.

North County Knights

1998 record: 6-7

Coach: Amy Williams, ninth season

Top players: Amber Biddenger, Sr., hitter; Brandi Schickton, Sr., hitter; Alicia Kramp, Sr., hitter; Brittany Botd, So., middle hitter.

Outlook: Williams is excited about the prospects of this season, because "in the past we've relied on two hitters, but this year we have more." The Knights have four pretty good ones with size and varsity experience in Biddenger (5-9), Schickton (5-7), Kramp (5-7) and Boyd (5-11). All are good athletes and strong. "If we play like I'm hoping we can play, we should have one of the better teams we have had in a long while," said Williams, who led the Knights to an 8-8 season in '97.

Northeast Eagles

1998 record: 4-9

Coach: Valerie McBee, first season

Top players: Sarah Kirby, Sr., middle hitter; Reagan Lawrence, Sr., hitter; Katie Fold, Sr., hitter; Alison Rode, Jr., middle hitter; Nichol White, Jr., setter.

Outlook: Kirby (5-9) and power hitter Lawrence (5-7) are the only returning varsity players from last year. McBee, a former three-sport (volleyball, basketball, softball) standout at Chesapeake High and Towson State grad (1996) , coached the Eagle JV last year and succeeds Kevin Kintop who was 9-20 in two seasons as varsity coach. "We don't have a lot of experience, but our senior leadership could make up for that," said McBee, who teaches math at the Pasadena school. "Our hitters are strong, and our goal is to be competitive and go at least .500." The senior hitters have good height in Kirby (5-9), Lawrence and Fold (5-7 each) along with junior Rode (5-8). White (5-5) appears ready to step up as the setter for the Class 3A team.

Old Mill Patriots

1998 record: 7-7

Coach: Bea Fenzel, second season

Top players: Jennifer Liden, Sr., outside hitter; Andrea Hamback, Sr., middle hitter; Adrienne Hall, Jr., outside hitter; Ashley Parks, Jr., setter.

Outlook: After predicting a .500 season for her Patriots last fall, Fenzel, former Catholic High and Northeast JV coach, is looking for her team to go over .500 this year. "We have two seniors and two juniors who should lead this team to a winning season," said Fenzel, who still plays the sport and also coached the Chesapeake 16-and-under B club team. The key seniors are Liden (5-7) and Hamback (5-10). Returning, experienced 11th graders are Hall and Parks (5-7 each). Several JV grads, including sophomore setter Kristin Brice (5-0) and junior blocker Adell King (5-11), are expected to contribute in the Pats' new 6-2 swing offense. "Six of our players played club ball, and we have strong serving," said Fenzel. "We lost seven seniors, but I'm excited about this team and expect nothing but improvement."

St. Mary's Saints

1998 record: 6-10

Coach: Skip Wilhelm, first season

Top players: Ashley Levy, Sr., middle hitter/blocker; Stephanie Cox, Sr., setter; Christy DiMattesa, Sr., outside hitter; Kamarin Knopf, Sr., middle hitter; Erin Lundblad, Jr., setter.

Outlook: The Saints lost seven players from last year's team and rookie coach Wilhelm is banking on three key seniors to mature a very young team. Levy (6-0), a four-year varsity player, will see action in the middle, outside and block as well because of her strength. "And Stephanie (Cox, 5-4) should be a significant contributor along with Christy (DiMattesa, 5-6)," said Wilhelm, who coached the Saints' JV last year and the South River varsity back in 1991, succeeds Bernie Walsh. Knopf (5-10) is playing the sport for the first time but is coming on fast, as is 5-7 junior setter, Erin Lundblad. "Overall, we're very young, but I like this team's attitude, aggressive style and hustle," said Wilhelm. The Saints will compete in the new Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Division.

Severna Park Falcons

1998 record: 18-2

Coach: Tim Dunbar, 13th season

Top players: Megan Medford, Sr., defense; Lauren Briggs, Sr., outside hitter; Kiersten Klein, Sr., outside hitter; Lauren Bessire,, Sr., middle hitter; Natalie Hicks, Sr., outside hitter.

Outlook: With more solid hitters and raw athletic ability than he has had in several years, Dunbar is not crying the blues because graduation took five starters (three All-County) including county player of the year, setter Lauren Boyd. The county's all-time winningest volleyball coach at 237-22 in 12 seasons with three state titles, Dunbar is serving notice that county foes had better get his Falcons early. "Things could be a little rough early, but by the end of the season, we could be pretty formidable," said Dunbar, who led the Falcons to the 4A state final last year and No. 2 ranking in The Sun's poll. "This team has the potential to get back to the state final four." Medford (5-3), a second team All-County defensive specialist, returns to be the team leader. Bessire (6-0), Briggs (5-10), Klein (5-9), and Hicks (5-10) all got valuable playing time as juniors and give the Falcons height. Senior Lindsey Ortel (5-6), and sophomores Marti Hause (5-7) and Megan Boyd (5-7) are vying for the starting setter position vacated by the latter's older sister, Lauren. A master at meshing a team together, graduation losses have never bothered Dunbar, who hopes to guide the Falcons to their ninth consecutive county championship, 12th in 13 years, and eighth region title. That would given them another shot at a state crown, which they last won in 1993 -- at the time, their third straight.

Southern Bulldogs

1998 record: 2-13

Coach: Keith Brezina, third season

Top players: Elizabeth Kurgansky, Sr., setter; Eliza Warring, Sr., setter; Mimi Franke, Sr., outside hitter; Joanna Wright, Sr., hitter; April Catterton, Sr., defense.

Outlook: With five, three-year varsity performers in Kurgansky (5-7), Warring (5 -6), Franke (5-8), Wright (5-9) and team captain Catterton (5-7), Brezina believes he could be looking at a .500 season after going 3-28 over the last two years. "This should be our year to turn things around," said Brezina. "We don't have any 6-footers, but we have experience and a great attitude. I see definite improvement." Brezina also expects a lot of help from newcomer, junior setter/blocker Seton Hurston (5-10).

South River Seahawks

1998 record: 15-5

Coach: Maureen Carter, fifth season

Top players: Laura Greenback, Sr., hitter; Kristin Marion, Sr., hitter; Sarah Wormwood, Sr., setter/hitter; Tara Michael, Sr., defense.

Outlook: The Class 2A state semifinalist Seahawks graduated seven seniors, including two-time All-County hitter Jessica Freeman and second-team All-County setter, Lorin Smith. South River, last year's No. 7-ranked team, lost 3-0 to Centennial (17-3), the eventual Class 2A state champion and No. 1 team in The Sun's final poll. An encore is not likely in their step up to Class 3A. Carter will be looking for improvement each time out in hopes of developing her vastly inexperienced team in time for the 3A playoffs.

Pub Date: 9/02/99

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