CSM vol­ley­ball soars in 2016

Youth­ful Hawks win league ti­tle, look­ing to ad­vance in 2017

Maryland Independent - - Sports - By TED BLACK tblack@somd­news.com Twit­ter: tblack­somds1

Head­ing into the 2016 fall sea- son with only two re­turn­ing play- ers and a hand­ful of fresh­men for a team that would have a thin group of re­serves, it would have been easy to ex­pect the Col­lege Of South­ern Mary­land vol­ley- ball team to en­ter their re­cent cam­paign with far more trep­ida- tion than an­tic­i­pa­tion.

But over the course of the sea­son the CSM vol­ley­ball (168 over­all, 10-1 MDJUCO) over- came its youth­ful in­ex­pe­ri­ence and jelled into a for­mi­da­ble squad that cap­tured the Mary- land Ju­nior Col­lege Ath­letic Con­fer­ence reg­u­lar sea­son ti­tle be­fore be­ing elim­i­nated in the NJCAA Re­gion XX tour­na­ment semi­fi­nals. In­stead of sim­ply en­dur­ing the grow­ing pains of a build­ing sea­son, the CSM vol­ley­ball squad es­tab­lished the foun­da­tion for a very bright fu­ture.

“I was very proud of what these ladies ac­com­plished this sea­son,” CSM head vol­ley­ball coach Ash­ley Wolfe said. “We only had two re­turn­ing play­ers [El­iz­a­beth Ra­van­cho, a West­lake High School grad­u­ate from Wal­dorf, and Mi­lana Cal­i­man] and seven fresh­men and these young ladies all jelled to­gether on and off the court. They re­ally looked to help one an­other im­prove at ev­ery prac­tice and ever y match.”

Among the in­com­ing group of fresh­men were two La Plata High School grad­u­ates, Ash­ley Hall of Hugh­esville and Brandie Todd of Char­lotte Hall, as well as play­ers from other South­ern Mary­land Ath­letic Con­fer­ence schools, in­clud­ing Kiana Bopp (a North­ern High School grad­u­ate from Ch­e­sa­peake Beach), Sabrina Driver (a McDonough High School grad­u­ate from White Plains), Tay­lor Ha­gen (a Hunt­ing­town High School grad­u­ate from Hunt­ing­town) and Kel­ley In­gram (a North Point High School grad­u­ate from Wal­dorf).

“It was fun hav­ing all of these play­ers from dif­fer­ent schools in SMAC come to­gether,” Todd said. “We talked about the matches that we played against each other, but we also wanted to help each other get bet­ter. It was an ex­cit­ing sea­son and now we’re re­ally ex­cited about next year. We were able to achieve a lot this year with a lot of fresh­men, so we’re ex­cited about next sea­son.”

CSM had sev­eral solid win streaks dur­ing the sea­son and the Hawks ap­peared to be peak­ing at the right time head­ing into the Re­gion XX Di­vi­sion II tour­na­ment. CSM won three straight matches in Septem­ber be­fore end­ing the month by get­ting swept by Hager­stown Com­mu­nity Col­lege, but the Hawks went 7-2 in Oc­to­ber,

end­ing the slate on a five-match win streak.

“I re­ally thought we came to­gether on the last part of the sea­son,” Wolfe said. “We lost a cou­ple of matches at Po­tomac State [W.Va.], but we came back and won our last five matches and ended up tak­ing first place in the Mary­land JUCO stand­ings and then head­ing into the Re­gion XX tour­na­ment with a lot of mo­men­tum. We didn’t get as far as we wanted [los­ing in the semi­fi­nals], but I was very happy with the sea­son.”

CSM won its last five reg­u­lar sea­son matches against Mont- gomery Col­lege in straight sets, needed five sets to up­end Har­ford Com­mu­nity Col­lege then swept both Lord Fairfax (Va.) and CCBC-Es­sex be­fore need­ing just four sets to down Al­le­gany Col­lege. The Hawks then swept CCBC-Es­sex in the open­ing round of the Re­gion XX tour­na­ment be­fore fall­ing in the semi­fi­nals to Hager­stown.

“The way that we ended the sea­son was re­ally spe­cial,” Todd said. “We only had two re­turn­ing play­ers and the rest were fresh­men who came from

dif­fer­ent schools and played a dif­fer­ent style of vol­ley­ball, but we were able to over­come all of that and work to­gether. It was ex­cit­ing, but I think we’re even more ex­cited about what this team can ac­com­plish next year.”

Wolfe and her as­sis­tant coaches have been busy scout­ing and re­cruit­ing play­ers for the 2017 sea­son and look­ing well past that for po­ten­tial play­ers for 2018, 2019 and even 2020. The Hawks im­mense suc­cess this past fall, de­spite the team’s youth and lack of depth, has en­abled Wolfe and her coaches to ap­proach po­ten­tial play­ers with a stronger hand.

“We had a good re­cruit­ing class come in this fall and we’re go­ing to have a very good fresh­men group next year,” Wolfe said. “We’re al­ready look­ing at this year’s high school ju­niors and we’re even look­ing at some of the mid­dle schools. We want to en­cour­age a lot of the younger girls to start play­ing and play club and keep get­ting bet­ter and then come play for us some­day.”

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