If you have three starters back from a team that won two straight Maryland AA championships, that won 35 straight matches over two seasons and that made Montgomery County the state hotbed of girls volleyball, you might sit back and enjoy life.
Not at Wootton High School. The Patriots' volleyball team has a mission.
"We're not letting up till we get that third title," said captain Chrissy Haislip. "Winning again would be just incredible. We have a tradition to uphold, you know."
"When people think volleyball," junior Bev Stross said. "We want them to think, 'Wootton.' We're going to show the rest of Maryland what volleyball is all about."
Right now, Coach Mickey Lipman is busy spinning determination into domination. The Patriots are 3-0. They have beaten Rockville, Bethesda-Chevy Chase and Springbrook by a 90-14 aggregate margin.
"I'm not really worrying about much," said Lipman. "I can't see these girls being intimidated by anyone."
Through all the talk of another undefeated year, through all the talk of another state title, the Patriots remain calm. As Daphne Gee, the other returning starter, said simply, "We're not letting any of these expectations get to us. We're just going to go out and do our best every game and see what happens."
"These kids are volleyball-smart," said Lipman. "They've been there before. They know what it takes to win."
"I think it's more a case of confidence than cockiness," Haislip said. "After winning like we did two years in a row, you have to be confident. And we show our confidence. We're rightly confident."
Said Lipman: "They don't even come close to being cocky. It's just confidence, that's all."
And confidence enables Haislip, Stross and Gee to win. "They play different kinds of games," Lipman said. "They have different strengths. But their skills all mesh very nicely."
Stross said: "We're the veterans. We're the leaders. And we work so well as a unit, I think, because we're real close. On and off the court. We're sort of like a sub-team out there, the three of us."
Let's meet them:
*Senior Chrissy Haislip: 17, 5 feet 11 ("God, I wish I were 6-5"). She calls herself "the Organizer" because "I make sure everybody is where they're supposed to be. I call the plays. I keep all the mechanics in order." Last year, she cut off a dead cat's ear in her anatomy and physiology class, gift-wrapped it and sent it to Lipman. She has never lost a match in high school. On court, she is "a great middle-hitter and pinpoint passer who covers lots of territory," Lipman said. Flo Hyman, who led the U.S. Women's Volleyball team to a bronze medal at the '84 Olympics, is her hero: "You look at her and you say, 'God, I could play like her one day.' She's really an inspiration."
*Junior Bev Stross, 16, 5-11. She got into volleyball via track: "I loved the high jump. I loved the long jump. But I hated the running. So volleyball was a natural." She attended the World Volleyball Camp in New York this summer to refine her game. Haislip said, "Bev's matured a lot. She's going to be one of the most improved players this year. I see a different player altogether." On court, she is a heady middle-hitter and middle-blocker who loves her role as team cheerleader, saying, "I can't be a mouse out there on the floor. I've got to be a lion."
*Junior Daphne Gee, 16, 5-10. Like Haislip, she played for the Capitol Volleyball Club that toured the U.S. this summer. She started playing on the beaches of Southern California, where she grew up. Of the three, "Daphne's the most all-around player," Lipman said. "She's a very good outside hitter and she plays excellent, aggressive defense." Along with Stross, she is also a member of Wootton's girls' basketball team. On the court, "Daphne's great at loosening people up," best friend Haislip said. "She's a joker, if you want to call it that."