Western, the defending Baltimore City volleyball champion, has rebounded from a season-opening loss to Mercy to improve to 7-1 overall. The Doves have rolled through the city league (7-0) without losing.
First-year coach Matt Rushing attributes the rise of his young team to gaining experience as the season has progressed. With only three club veterans on the team, the other girls needed time to adjust to the varsity level, he said.
"A lot of the girls hadn't really played any competition, and the mistakes we made were inexperience mistakes. If we played Mercy again, it would be a different story now."
Ericka Butler has come on strong for the Doves, averaging slightly more than four kills a game. Joy Gorham and setter Taneisha Osborne also have made key contributions and provided leadership.
Rushing made two critical changes during the season, moving Butler from middle hitter to the outside and installing a two-person serve receive to use exceptional passers Butler and Gorham.
The Doves will defend their city title, likely against last year's runner-up Poly next Wednesday, but they will tune up against No. 8 C. Milton Wright at home Monday.
"C. Milton Wright is probably going to be the toughest match of the season," said Rushing, a Doves assistant coach last year. "I expect to see a lot more hitting than we're used to seeing. We see a lot of free balls, but this will give us a chance to see better competition with the [regional] playoffs right around the corner."
Leading at Loyola
Mike Lookingland of Loyola is not your typical soccer player. Not only does the junior lead the seventh-ranked Dons in scoring with eight goals and 14 assists, but he leads others -- some less fortunate than himself -- off the field as well.
A 3.4 grade-point average student and an honor roll member since sixth grade, Lookingland spends much of his time volunteering with the elderly at Pickers Gill Retirement Home, playing soccer with physically challenged children at Kennedy Kreiger Institute and serving food to the homeless.
Lookingland, 16, also coaches recreation league soccer, and is a member of Loyola's student council as well as Students Against Drunk Driving.
In soccer, Lookingland has been a member of the Olympic Developmental State Team for the past two seasons, and the Maryland State Cup champion Soccer Club of Baltimore Bays for the past six consecutive club seasons.
Loyola, coached by Don Kraft, is 11-4-3.
Pikesville is back
Pikesville's football program, coached by Joe Bosley, is enjoying one its most successful seasons and has a chance to reach the Class 1A state playoffs for the first time in school history.
That honor narrowly eluded the Panthers with last season's 7-3 finish. But the Panthers (7-1, 7-0 in Baltimore County 1A-2A league play) are currently in first place in the North Region standings.
And if the eight-team playoff field were chosen today, Pikesville would be the third seed. The Panthers close their season against 1A-2A league rivals Hereford (8-0, 8-0), ranked No. 4, and Western Tech (5-2, 4-2).
Roland Park's Meghan McInnes has verbally committed to Princeton, where she will play lacrosse. The Reds goalie helped the U.S. under-19 team win the World Cup championship last month in Australia. McInnes also plays field hockey but will limit herself to lacrosse in college.
Seton Keough's Meaghan Allan has verbally committed to play basketball at Fairleigh Dickinson. She will sign with the Division I program during the early signing period, beginning Nov. 11. Allan, a sharpshooting guard, averaged 12.6 points and 4.7 assists and hit 56 three-point shots last season. She has helped the Gators to the Catholic League championship all three years and holds the school record for three-pointers in a game with six.
Franklin's Chris Borcik, a second-team All-Metro boys soccer pick, had a goal and an assist in a 2-1 win over Eastern Tech, and scored the lone goal in a 1-0 shutout of previously undefeated Dulaney.
Western Tech's boys soccer team, coached by Tag Landon, went 7-1 in Division III (8-4 overall) to capture its first league title in the school's five-year varsity history. Warren Drell led the team with nine goals.
Because of incorrect information supplied to The Sun, Gilman's Joe DeNardi was incorrectly identified in last week's notebook. DeNardi hit a home run and tripled during the Oct. 15-17, Mid-Atlantic Baseball Showcase in Jefferson, Tenn.