Depth helps Dulaney volleyball become settled

The Baltimore Sun

It's a coach's sworn duty to worry about all manner of things, and Dulaney High volleyball coach Cary Lyon is fulfilling his responsibilities to the hilt, short and long term.

Before Wednesday's home match with Woodlawn, Lyon roamed all over the gym, from the storage area to the court, searching for the two game balls to be used that afternoon.

With that mission accomplished, Lyon turned his attention to the bigger issue for the Lions - namely, coming up with a set lineup for the season. To wit, Lyon said he didn't play the same lineup in any of the four games in their win over Towson last Friday, and used the same lineup in only the fourth and fifth games of their win against No. 7 Catonsville on Monday.

"The pieces are different from one day to another," Lyon said. "I really don't know today what my best starting lineup is. Some years, I might not have a handle on a position or two, but this is the first year I've gone this late and not had a clue."

To date, the absence of a regular rotation hasn't been a major issue for Dulaney (3-1), ranked ninth in the most recent Sun poll but almost certain to move up next week.

Still, not knowing whom you can turn to in critical moments can be a bit unsettling, particularly for coaches, who are, after all, sworn to worry about such things.

Some of the concern is to be expected. The Lions lost All-Metro hitter Marah Schmitz to graduation. Schmitz, a two-time Baltimore County Player of the Year, and Chelsea Manning formed the nucleus of a team that won two straight county titles and reached the state 4A finals in 2005.

For now, Lyon is comforted by the notion that while he doesn't have a superstar, he does have a lot of depth and a collection of solid role players.

"I have confidence in my girls, pretty deeply," said Lyon. "In basketball, a coach will say, 'We're seven or eight deep.' I think of our 14, we're 12 or 13 deep, and maybe by the end of the season, we'll be 14 deep."

And there is solid talent to go around. Senior Danielle Parker, who led the girls basketball team to the 4A North regional semifinals in March, is expected to play a key role this year, as is junior Betsy Blanche, though each is off to a slow start.

Meanwhile, senior Maria DiPietro has emerged as the team's leader, both through her play and through her willingness to be vocal, though it took awhile for her to embrace the leadership role.

"[At the beginning of the season] I was like, 'Oh, my God. Where is my captain?'" DiPietro said. "But then I knew it was time to step it up. It's just exciting."

The last week has been particularly thrilling. DiPietro, who moved to outside hitter from librero, had eight kills in the Towson match, which Dulaney won in four games.

DiPietro, who, at 5 feet 5, is among the shorter competitors, saved her biggest heroics for Monday, when she led the Lions back from a 2-1 deficit with eight kills and five aces against Catonsville, the team they're expected to challenge for the county title.

"We might have gotten a little too full of ourselves from Friday [against Towson]," DiPietro said. "We got down, and we realized, 'Uh-oh. We've got to step it up.' We persevered, and we got it. It was awesome."

DiPietro, who has been the constant on the floor all season, says the fact the Lions don't have a rotation set in stone isn't a cause for concern.

"It's not that bad," DiPietro said. "Not having a lineup is OK, because it's [the] beginning of the year. Everybody has so much potential, and a lot of people can play all these different positions. You don't know who the best player is for our team, but we'll figure it out."

And therein lies the difference between coaches and players. Coaches worry. Players don't.

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