CUMBERLAND — Led by co-Players of the Year Sarah Lowery and Haley Wolfe, Fort Hill placed four players on the seven-player first team of the 2013 All-Area/AMAC volleyball team, as voted upon by the conference coaches.
Lowery, senior middle hitter, and Wolfe, senior setter, led Fort Hill to a 19-0 record and the Maryland 1A state championship as well as the AMAC title. They are joined on the first team by Sentinel teammates Sierra Minnick, senior libero, and Erin Amoruso, senior outside hitter.
Frankfort placed two players on the first team, senior libero Autumn Dishman and junior middle hitter Taylor Sisk, while Hampshire sophomore outside hitter Ericka Gordon rounds out the first team.
Fort Hill’s Lowery is the sole first-team repeater from a year ago.
• Joe Brewer, in his 12th year as head coach, guided Fort Hill to the school’s first volleyball state title in the MPSSAA era, and was voted AMAC Coach of the Year by his fellow coaches, leading his teams to a record of 157-43 while at Fort Hill.
The Sentinels swept Carver A&T, 25-12, 25-23 and 25-12 at the University of Maryland’s Ritchie Coliseum to become the second Allegany County team to win a volleyball MPSSAA state championship, the other being Mount Savage in 1979, 1982, 1983 and 1997. The last local team to have a perfect season was Mount Savage, which went 20-0 in 1997.
“I’m really proud of the girls and I’m proud of the program at Fort Hill. We’ve had a lot of good teams and this is just part of the program and what it represents,” Brewer said after his team had beaten Carver and Perryville in the state tournament by a combined 150-95 score. “It’s great for our school and the community.”
Fort Hill’s perfect regular season gave the Sentinels home court for the match with Smithsburg in the region final, which the Sentinels won 3-2 to end the Leopards’ 22-match postseason winning streak. Smithsburg had beaten Fort Hill in the West Region final the previous four years and went on to win the state title each time.
“For us, getting out of the region is the big thing,” said Brewer. “So many of our teams have been so close, and all those times when we lost in the region finals we really felt we were the second best team in the state. But we were just region finalists.
“We needed to win this. I’ve been getting texts from former players and they’re just as happy as the kids on this year’s team. It makes you feel good.”
• Earning second team All-Area/AMAC were Fort Hill senior right-side hitter Troie York, Mountain Ridge junior setter Addie Lauder, Southern sophomore middle hitter Lauren Francillon, Allegany junior setter Anya Murray, Frankfort junior setter Sarah Dayton, Fort Hill senior outside hitter Rachel Alderton and Hampshire sophomore setter Katie LaFollette.
• Receiving honorable mention were Mountain Ridge junior outside hitter Kiersten Miller, Hampshire senior outside hitter Kali Davis, Frankfort junior outside hitter Cassidy Cosner, Frankfort senior middle hitter Kayla Rowe, Keyser senior hitter Katie Tasker, Mountain Ridge junior right-side hitter Melissa Shank and senior Southern setter Becca Lee.
A first-team All-Area/AMAC selection as a junior, Sarah Lowery came back her senior year to lead Fort Hill in kills with 222 for 3.42 kills per game, 49 aces, 40 blocks and 181 service points. She also had 58 digs and 16 assists.
“Sarah has developed into a great hitter,” said Brewer.” She has the ability to hit from the outside, the middle and the right. Her kill efficiency for this year was .361 which is very high for a left-handed player hitting primarily in the middle.
“Sarah dominated several matches this year with both her hitting and her serving. She had eight matches hitting over .500. These numbers are outstanding for a hitter."
Haley Wolfe led Fort Hill with 596 assists for an average of 8.2 per game. She also had 31 aces, 142 service points, 57 kills, 109 digs and eight blocks.
“Haley did a tremendous job running our offense this year,” said Brewer. “She worked hard to improve her decision making and set placement, and was huge to our success this year. Her exceptional ability to both set and control the offense made her stand out from the rest of the setters that we played this year.”
Previous Players of the Year were Alexis Rice, Frankfort, 2012; Saydi Whiteman, Frankfort, and Alycia Horner, Southern, 2011; Nikki Absher, Fort Hill, 2010; Andrea Armstrong, Fort Hill, 2009; Shayna Sweitzer, Southern, 2008; Lauren Douthitt, Frankfort, 2007; Sarah Stephens, Southern, 2006; Angie Jenkins, Frankfort, 2005; Angie Jenkins, Frankfort, and Lauren Mouse, Fort Hill, 2004; and Julie Cessna and Sarah Parks, Frankfort, 2003.
Sierra Minnick led Fort Hill in digs with 257 and had 40 aces and 123 service points. She led the team in serve reception with 464 passes with 50.6 percent perfect target passes.
“Sierra is one of the best defensive players in the area,” said Brewer. “She has worked very hard to improve her serve receive and defensive skills. She has a great work ethic and goes hard for every ball. She is a leader on the court with her consistent play as the team libero.”
The only returning starter for Frankfort, Autumn Dishman was a three-year starter and played in two West Virginia AA state semifinals for the Falcons in her career. This season Frankfort won the PVC Championship and finished 20-19-6, falling to Philip Barbour in the region semifinal game.
Dishman finished the season with 608 digs, 303 points, 31 aces and a 94 percent serving percentage. For her career she had 1,424 digs, a 2.51 (out of 3.00) serve receive average, 497 points, 74 aces and 94 percent serving.
She was first-team West Virginia All-State and first-team All-PVC her senior season after being second-team All-Area and All-PVC her junior year.
“Autumn carried our team’s defense and serve receive,” said Frankfort Coach Mary Slider. “She has been hands down the best libero that I have had the pleasure of working with. She also started for three years at libero for the traveling team Hub City out of Hagerstown. The team won its region title which attributes to her great success as a libero.
“We played in the Oak Glen Tournament, the Hedgesville Pumpkin Smash and the Fort Hill Invitational this year and I have not seen a more talented libero than Autumn.”
Fort Hill’s Erin Amoruso had 100 kills this season, averaging 1.49 per game. She also had 35 aces, 144 service points and 101 digs.
“Erin was a key to our offense and defense,” said Brewer “She was one of two primary passers, averaging nearly 40 percent of serve receptions to the target. She is a great all-around player. As an undersized hitter, she became very effective at getting kills. She has great passion for the game which she brings to both practices and matches.”
Taylor Sisk, junior middle hitter for Frankfort, finished the season with 223 kills, 54 blocks and 212 digs.
“Taylor is a smart hitter and can see the court very well, being able to get a quick point,” Slider said. “She is good for getting the team emotionally charged up with her kills.”
Sisk emerged onto the scene her sophomore season, entering the fray as an emergency substitute in the West Virginia state tournament and in the process, according to Slider, “gained amazing experience.”
“This experience lit a passion in Taylor for volleyball,” Slider said, “and she left the 2012 state tournament in Charleston on Friday to make it up to Hagerstown to try out for her first time at a club volleyball team. She made the team but quickly realized how hard it would be to manage basketball and a travel team.
“After not making states this year, she was devastated and decided to not play basketball and devote her time to volleyball. She wants to get a scholarship to play and feels the only way to do that is to get noticed on a traveling team now since we didn’t make it to states.
Hampshire’s Ericka Gordon had 224 kills, 176 service points, 28 aces, 55 blocks, 20 assists and 51 digs last fall in the Trojans’ 14-14-2 season.
“Ericka has improved incredibly since her freshman year,” said Coach Megan Fuller. “She was much more consistent with her hitting, and her defensive passing was some of the best on our team.
“She, along with her teammates, spent a lot of time playing volleyball in the offseason and the effect on their game as a team was obvious. Ericka had a tough job in the front row as she is our tallest player at 5-9. She was charged with disrupting the opposition's toughest hitters and sometimes had to change her hitting assignment due to needing her block on certain players.
“Ericka is a great young person and a pleasure to coach.”
Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at email@example.com