On the opening day of tryouts for high school athletes throughout Calvert County, heat and humidity on Wednesday afternoon greeted them at various schools and served a simple reminder that summer is not entirely over in the wake of a fall sports season about to get under way.
Before heading into the gymnasium where their matches will be decided again this fall, members of the Northern High School volleyball team traveled one mile around the track outside under the watchful eyes of head coach Bobby Gibbons. Junior Allie Droneberger completed the distance first in just less than eight minutes then spoke about the season at hand.
“I focused a lot on conditioning during the summer,” said Droneberger, who was also the Class 3A girls state champion in the high jump last spring. “I also worked out a lot. We didn’t graduate anyone from last year’s team, so I think we’re all excited about this year. A lot of the girls were new last year, but this year we’re all back and we’re excited about the season.”
Senior outside hitter Allie Timbario completed her four laps around the Northern oval alongside setter Jaelyn King and then joined her teammates inside the gym. Like Dronberger, Timbario is also very eager to get the season started. She maintained a genuine workout throughout the summer, played with the South River Volleyball Club and committed to Indiana University of Pennsylvania, an NCAA Division II school.
“I really stayed busy this summer playing club and conditioning,” Timbario said. “It was great to come back and see the girls again. We had a number of workouts together this summer, but it’s always different once the practices start and you get back in the gym. We have high expectations this season. We want to go to states.”
With a pair of 3A volleyball state championships already to his credit during his days at the helm with the Patriots, Gibbons hardly had made any early reservations for the Ritchie Coliseum at the University of Maryland in College Park, site of the state volleyball tournament semifinals and finals, in late fall. His primary focus on opening day of tryouts is getting a glimpse of which potential varsity players returned ready to it the floor.
“I love everything about the first day of tryouts,” Gibbons said. “You get to see which girls are ready to come in and play. We have a lot of returning players since we didn’t graduate anybody. The first day in the gym is always exciting for me. It’s the start of a whole new season and you get to see which girls are hungry to get in the gym and get the season started.”
Just down the road at Huntingtown High School, members of the Hurricanes field hockey team took part in various conditioning drills before practice then participated in several skills sessions. On a team that features eight seniors, many of whom play two sports for the Hurricanes, a pair of returning senior players have their sights set on numerous foes this fall.
“We know this is our last chance to play in the SMAC championship game and then play for a region and state title,” said senior Arianna Smith, who also plays tennis for the school and has already committed to NCAA Division III St. Mary’s College of Maryland for next season. “We definitely want to play in the SMAC game. We know we have to beat Patuxent to do that.”
Fellow senior Lexi Zeruto, who also plays lacrosse for Huntingtown in the spring, is also keenly aware of the other conference teams who stand between the Hurricanes and their ultimate goals. Zeruto also enjoyed seeing the influx of new players to the squad with nine freshmen taking part in the opening day of tryouts.
“We have a lot of good seniors, but I am also glad to see all the new, young girls come out for the team,” Zeruto said. “They came in here with a lot of energy and they’re good competition for us. Patuxent is definitely our main rival right now. They’ve been really good for a while now. La Plata and Chopticon are also really good and Lackey beat us a few years ago.”
Ironically, although Northern and Huntingtown are perhaps the two most natural rivals in Calvert County regardless of sport, neither members of the Northern volleyball team or those on the Huntingtown field hockey squad hinted that their respective neighbors are their top priority this fall.
“I think we’re definitely focused on La Plata and Leonardtown this year,” Timbario said. “Huntingtown graduated a lot, so I think we’re more focused on some of the other teams in our league.”
“We always get nervous when we play Northern,” Smith said. “They’re our rivals, but after a few minutes of play the nerves go away.”