Player of the Year: Hannah Schmidt, Mount de Sales Academy

As a sophomore and junior, Hannah Schmidt watched Kasey Mercier and Katy Buck lead Mount de Sales Academy to the IAAM A Conference volleyball championship with an intense spitfire style. The baton was passed to Schmidt this fall.

More reserved than her predecessors, Schmidt’s play more than spoke volumes for the Sailors, who claimed a third straight crown in 2010. Schmidt is the inaugural Varsity Sports Network’s 2010 Volleyball player of the year.

“It’s a quiet but silent power with Hannah,” said Mount de Sales coach Monica Owensby. “She gradually learned from her predecessors.”

Schmidt, an outside hitter, led the No. 2 Sailors in kills (292) to go with 138 digs, 55 aces and 30 blocks as the Catonsville school (22-2 overall) went unbeaten in IAAM A competition. In the title game against Archbishop Spalding, Schmidt had 13 kills, two blocked kills and nine digs.

“We came together as a team, even though we had some new people,” said Schmidt, 6-foot-1. “The younger players who played varsity last season really stepped it up.”

Schmidt filled the leadership void left by Buck, the area’s top player last season who’s now at Towson University. She relished the opportunity to keep the Sailors’ run of dominance intact.

“Coach Monica said I needed to show players what I expected of them,” said Schmidt. Owensby, who coached Schmidt for four years, knew Schmidt’s approach would be more settled.

“She wasn’t going to be a boisterous player,” said Owensby who completed her second season as varsity coach. “Her noise was put to the ball down for a kill. It’s her way of saying ‘this is my intensity.’ The entire team was like that.”

Schmidt remembers as a freshman being “intimidated” by Mercier (Shepherd College), then a junior, and Buck (then a sophomore).  Her memorable varsity moment came in the 2008 IAAM A finals against defending champ St. Paul’s School and Bailey Webster, the nation’s top high school player who’s now a sophomore at the University of Texas.

“It was such a big deal because St. Paul’s was such a great team,” said Schmidt, whose team began its title run with a four set decision over the Gators. “I remember blocked her two or three times, it was ecstatic and fun.”

Volleyball is in Schmidt’s blood. Both her parents are former volleyball players. Brother Matt is a junior outside hitter for Juniata College’s men’s team after playing three seasons at Mount St. Joseph.

“When I was younger, they [Schmidt’s parents] would make me and my brother serve to them and play pepper with them in the backyard,” said Schmidt. “We were like ‘why are they making us do this.’”

Schmidt started playing club in seventh grade. One of her first club coaches was Ian Blanchard, who Schmidt will join at UMBC next fall.

“I never thought I was going to play in college,” Schmidt said. “It’s been a fun ride.”

emily bermanCoach of the Year: Emily Berman, Towson

During the post-game celebration of Towson’s Class 3A title victory over Centennial at the University of Maryland a couple of weeks ago, a sign was held up in the section of Towson students. It read: “Smile Berman.”

“The kids in the school say I look like I’m not having fun,” said Berman, who completed her third season at her alma-mater. “It’s not necessarily always fun, I have to be hard on them [players], and have to correct things that needs to be corrected. They’re [students] not in the gym two hours a day everyday with me, but we do have fun.”

Towson had the last laugh, claiming its first state championship since 2001 and the No. 1 ranking in the final VSN metro area Top 20. Berman’s efforts have garnered her Varsity Sports Network’s Volleyball Coach of the Year honors.

The Generals (22-1 overall) claimed their third consecutive Baltimore County crown (defeated Dulaney) before embarking on the state tournament where they overcame a 0-2 deficit to then-top ranked Centennial, 21-25, 17-25, 25-19, 25-23 and 15-13, for the title. Towson had lost in its previous three trips to the state Final Four.

“Coming into this year, knowing that we lost seven girls, five of which played a ton, I knew it was going to be hard,” said Berman, who was a middle hitter on the 2001 state title squad before playing at UMBC. “The girls worked really hard to beat very good teams down the stretch. Surprised, yes, but based on the time we worked and spent in the gym, it’s not a huge surprise.”