There isn't much room to sit or stand in Gallaudet University's Field House when all three courts are being used. And when all the parents and friends of New York's girls basketball team came to the U.S. Youth Games tournament yesterday, things were even more crowded. They yelled and screamed for New York, and they packed into the area between folded bleachers and a curtain separating the courts during New York's second-round game with Charlotte, N.C.

Tucked away in one corner were a few young boys with Charlotte T-shirts rooting for the other team.

They cheered, but Charlotte was crushed, 51-30.

Teams from Charlotte are getting a taste of what big-city competition is like in many of the sports here.

"Well, we knew they were going to be pretty tough," said Charlotte's Erika Abrams, 13. "We had nothing to lose, so we thought we'd try to come in and do our best."

That wasn't enough for Coach Becky McDonald, even if Charlotte did beat Atlanta in overtime Tuesday night. The big city of New York and its large talent pool wasn't the problem, she said; her team's play was. "We could not pass the ball, we could not catch the ball, we could not shoot the ball," she said.

Two courts over, several members of the Charlotte boys team peered over a crowd to get a glimpse of the Washington team that defeated Columbia, S.C., 66-64. They had lost to Atlanta, 66-63, in the first round, so they had a limited idea of what it was like to play some of the big-city teams. "With some of those bigger guys, you can get kind of intimidated at first," said John Haggler, 15. "But as the game goes on, you feel more comfortable."

But then, Charlotte itself might just be feeling a little more comfortable in the sports world. An NBA expansion team is on its way, and so, say the folks from Charlotte, is the big time.

"It brings that spirit to you," said Charlotte basketball player Jeff Curbeam, 15. "We're a real basketball city now. We're not a small town anymore." Added swim coach Jamie Thomas, 27, already a season ticket holder, "People are absolutely proud as heck about that."

Even though the team has a year left before it begins play, there's already plenty of enthusiasm. The name of the team was even a controversy. After first being called the Spirit, they are now the Hornets. The name is a takeoff from when General Cornwallis of the British Army referred to Charlotte and Mecklenburg County as "A hornet's nest of rebellion" during the Revolutionary War.

The switch from Spirit is a great improvement, said Thomas. "They were even going to have Casper the Ghost as a mascot," he said, frowning. "Nobody could relate to it."

Whatever the name, the NBA team appears to have accelerated local interest in basketball. "It gets the younger people involved," said Abrams.

But the Hornets have done little for volleyball. There aren't even any boys volleyball teams in Charlotte schools, so guys like Tim Ross were plucked out of school gym classes and recreation department teams.

While Ross said girls are better at passing and setting, and the boys at hitting, Coach Bettie Barry said the most significant difference is experience. "{The boys} had a lot to learn, obviously," she said. Nevertheless, Charlotte made it past the second round with a 15-13, 15-11 victory over Baltimore yesterday in the Catholic University Field House.

While the volleyball team was beating Baltimore, two Charlotte tennis players bounced balls off a wall behind the field house stands. It was raining, so Donna Williams, 13, and Rennie Rice, 13, were inside. But they had things wrapped up, anyhow. A 6-0, 6-0 defeat of a Paterson, N.J., team left them sounding quite confident. "They couldn't play," said Williams. Added Rice, "They were big beginners. It was very boring."

Next door in the natatorium, Charlotte's attitude was a little more low key, even though the girls 300-yard freestyle relay team had just broken the Youth Games record with a time of 2:55.75 in the preliminaries. "We were mildly surprised," Thomas said. "We didn't know the records were that reachable."Schedule of events -- Page D7