All-County Volleyball: Title-winning coaches share county honors
Smithsburg's Rachel Brashear, left, Williamsport's Emily Crabtree, center, and North Hagerstown's Megan Crawford are The Herald-Mail's 2012 Washington County Volleyball Co-Coaches of the Year. (By Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer)
Never before has Washington County won three state volleyball titles in one season — and the Leopards, Wildcats and Hubs all did so without dropping a single set in the state tournament.
So what choice is there?
To deny any of the three coaches the honor after the jobs they all did this season would be unfair. Unique seasons call for unique measures, and so — in a departure from the usual procedures — The Herald-Mail is recognizing Brashear, Crabtree and Crawford as its 2012 Washington County Volleyball Tri-Coaches of the Year.
The case for Brashear: She guided a Leopards squad with several sophomores and freshmen playing key roles to a fourth straight Maryland Class 1A state title, tying Williamsport’s four-year Class 1A run from 2002 to 2005 as the best in county history.
“We were young,” Brashear said. “My goal this year was to keep getting better each game and play our best volleyball come playoff time, and we peaked against Clear Spring and Boonsboro in the playoffs.”
The case for Crabtree: She took a team stung by an upset loss to Middletown in last year’s Class 2A West quarterfinals and the tragic death of Samantha Kelly in May and guided them to the Class 2A state title, the Wildcats’ first since 2005 and their 13th overall.
“Our thing the whole year was to stay focused,” Crabtree said. “We had the tools. We definitely had the players in place to fill the void left by the seniors. ... We had to focus, get everybody on the same page and play for the same reasons, and the loss of Sam brought us closer.
“It was just so emotional ... I’m getting emotional even talking about it again. The word that always comes to mind was bittersweet, but it was what we wanted. To go through what we went through and to have an ending like that was so cool. I had tears of joy and tears of sadness, all kinds of emotions.”
The case for Crawford: After losing four seniors from the squad that won Washington County’s first Class 3A state title last year, she put the right players — including two sophomores — into the right spots to fill the holes and hep the Hubs repeat as 3A champs, beating the state’s most storied program — Centennial and its 14 state titles — in the final.
“All the girls want to win. They work hard day in and day out, and the ultimate goal was to win,” Crawford said. “I just keep saying it’s them that get it done. (Assistant) coach (Katie Eck) and I can’t get it done for them. It’s very nice to be able to sit back, watch and let them get the job done. And they love the game. You don’t always have a group that has that desire. You can’t teach that.”
The coaches all agree that playing each other helped get each team ready for the state tournament.
“I credit teams like North and Williamsport. Playing that caliber of team makes us a better team as well,” Brashear said. “The volleyball community is a tight-knit community and everybody was cheering everybody. It was great to be a part of it.”
“Playing our local teams makes us all better,” Crawford said. “Playing at that high a level of competition ... it says a lot for the county and it helps everybody when they go down the road.”
With this year’s three state championships, Washington County volleyball teams have won 27 state titles over the last 32 seasons. It’s a tradition the coaches say they’re privileged to carry on.
“We all had great teachers and we just try to give that back to the girls, to experience what we experienced as players,” said Crabtree, who has coached Williamsport to five state titles and played on the Wildcats’ first state championship team in 1981. “The women who set the tone in the 80s instilled in us qualities we try to hand off to the next generation.”