By DANIEL KAUFFMAN
11:07 PM EST, December 14, 2012
North Hagerstown volleyball coach Megan Crawford gave senior middle hitter Peyton Wallech more responsibility this season than ever before.
After winning their first state championship in Maryland Class 3A last year, the Hubs lost four starters — including 2011 Herald-Mail Washington County Player of the Year Autumn Fisher — to graduation.
Wallech was asked to pick up her game in all areas — becoming North’s go-to hitter as well as staying on the floor and playing on the back row — and responded with a sensational season that helped carry the Hubs to a second straight Class 3A state title.
Wallech is the 2012 Herald-Mail Washington County Player of the Year.
“At the end of the season last year, Coach told me, ‘You’re going to be the leader, we’re going to need you all the way around,” Wallech recalled. “(Being named the player of the year) really feels great. Washington County has great volleyball programs and it means a lot to me that everybody looks at me as a great player.”
Wallech’s 5.16 kills per set led all public school players, and her .397 hitting efficiency trailed only Williamsport’s Stacey Christy (.430). Wallech also averaged 0.98 blocks per set, and she was solid on serve receive and defensively, averaging 2.44 digs per set — second-best on the Hubs.
“We’ve had Peyton since she was a freshman and she’s come a long, long way,” Crawford said. “We used to call her ‘Freight Train’ because she wanted to pound everything. Her biggest improvement is in playing smart, seeing the block, finding the hole and not trying to hit everything hard.
“She wanted to play defense last year and we just didn’t need her to play. She wanted to be on the floor, and we told her in order to be on the floor, you need to work hard in the offseason to improve, and she did that. She’s an overall smart player and we were very fortunate she came in and was ready.”
Wallech raised her game as the season went on. She averaged 4.14 kills per set through North’s first four matches, then had a breakthrough performance in the Hubs’ signature regular-season victory, a five-set thriller over Williamsport that was the Wildcats’ only loss. Wallech had 34 kills and nine blocks in the win.
“Williamsport is a great team, defensively and offensively. They have all the talent and Stacey is a very good player. ... That was the game everyone was looking at, the two best teams in the county, so I knew if I was going to do it, that was the game to do that.
“It didn’t just open my eyes up, it opened the whole team’s eyes. Williamsport is a tough team and we knew if we could overcome them, we could overcome anybody. That set the groundwork for the playoffs.”
“That was the game that gave her the confidence,” Crawford said. “She knew she was going to get the ball a lot, and going up against Stacey, who’s a great player, I think it was a big game for her just wanting the ball and having the confidence to do well.”
And the hits kept on coming. Wallech finished with at least 20 kills in seven different matches and had 43 total kills over six sets (7.17 per set) in the state semifinals and final.
The next step in Wallech’s career will be Hagerstown Community College next fall.
“I’m actually really excited,” said Wallech. “I wasn’t thinking much about college, but HCC has a great program. They go to nationals almost every year and I’d like to continue even after HCC, so it gives me even more time to prepare.”
Joining Wallech on the 2012 Herald-Mail All-County First Team are:
Haley Caudell, Smithsburg
Senior middle hitter averaged 2.81 kills on .226 efficiency and added 0.62 blocks per set for the Leopards, who won their fourth straight Maryland Class 1A state title. An MVAL Antietam first-team honoree.
Stacey Christy, Williamsport
Senior middle hitter finished second among county public school players with 4.16 kills per set, and her 1.28 blocks per set led the county as she was the driving force in the Wildcats’ run to the Maryland Class 2A state title. An MVAL Antietam first-team honoree.
Sarah Elwood, Clear Spring
Senior setter, who’s a sensational athlete for her small stature, did a little of everything for the Blazers, averaging 4.23 assists, 3.19 digs, 1.25 kills and 0.54 aces per set. An MVAL Antietam first-team honoree.
Courtney Malott, Williamsport
Junior outside hitter was one of the county’s most versatile players, moving to middle hitter at times as well as being the Wildcats’ top defensive player at a county-best 4.88 digs per set. An MVAL Antietam first-team honoree.
Alexis McCarthy, North Hagerstown
Sophomore libero was a sparkplug for the Hubs with her infectious energy on the back row. She averaged 3.77 digs per set and was the only libero selected by the coaches to the MVAL Antietam first team.
Amanda Snowden, Smithsburg
Junior outside hitter was the top outside hitting threat in the county at 4.54 kills per set on .251 efficiency. She also excelled at the service line (0.71 aces per set) and defensively (2.12 digs per set). An MVAL Antietam first-team honoree.
Zoe Schreiber, North Hagerstown
Sophomore middle hitter was this season’s top newcomer as she formed a tough 1-2 combo with Wallech. She averaged 2.81 kills on .253 efficiency and added 0.50 blocks and 0.50 aces per set.
Kara Stamper, Heritage Academy
Senior middle hitter wrapped up a stellar prep career by leading all county players in kills (6.60 per set), hitting efficiency (.514) and aces (1.12 per set) and adding 0.98 blocks and 3.10 digs per set. She was the only returning starter for the Eagles, yet led them to a third straight undefeated Mason Dixon Christian Conference season.
Emily Taylor, Williamsport
Junior setter was given the challenge of running a the Wildcats’ multidimensional 5-1 offense and responded by averaging 8.51 assists per set. She also had the county’s best serving percentage (.996). An MVAL Antietam first-team honoree.
All-County Second Team
Payton Belella, Sophomore, Setter, Smithsburg
Sarah Bentley, Junior, Setter, North Hagerstown
Marissa Dangler, Sophomore, Libero, Smithsburg
Shelby Griffith, Senior, Setter, Boonsboro
Michey Moody, Junior, Outside Hitter, North Hagerstown
Lindsey Mowbray, Junior, Middle Hitter, Williamsport
Andrea Nunnally, Sr., Defensive, Williamsport
Shelby Wallace, Senior, Setter, Boonsboro
Taylor Williams, Sophomore, Middle Hitter, Boonsboro
Haley Wolff, Senior, Outside Hitter, Williamsport
All-County Honorable Mention
Boonsboro — Sarah Anderson, Skyler Casto, Meredith Craig, Natalie Reeder. Clear Spring — Sarah Blickenstaff, Kristen Mellott, Olivia Rowe, Kyleigh Stottlemyer. Grace Academy — Gracie Buser, Valerie Cole, Allie Cox, Caitlin Cox, Heather Groves, Jocelyn Quirple. Hancock — Emily Harvey, Kara McKinley, Alisa Shives, Sara Wagner. Heritage Academy — Hannah Gaylor, Nicole Gaylor, Christi Jackson, Bethany Powell. North Hagerstown — Christine Randall, Lauren Serafini. Smithsburg — Jenny Fritts, Emily Seward, Hollee Winders. South Hagerstown — Kendra Day, Hayley Freeman, Victoria Pearl. Williamsport — Karli Grimes.
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