Sunday, September 19, 2004

Can you dig it? This volleyball star sure can


Good Sports

Click here to e-mail Colleen Kane
Karen Tobias isn't much into stats. So when she heard her father and her Maryville College volleyball coaches talking about them this summer, she didn't really pay attention.

Then they told her - she was only 107 digs away from breaking an NCAA record reserved for some of the best defensive players of all time.

"I was like, 'Whoa, oh my gosh,' " Tobias said.

Whoa is right.

On Sept. 5, in a Division III matchup against No. 22 Southwestern (Texas), Tobias, a former Mount Notre Dame player, broke the NCAA record across all divisions of 3,024 career digs. As of Friday, the senior has 282 digs through 10 games this year. In the match in which she broke the record, she had 59 digs.

"I love it. It's a challenge to me," Tobias said. "I see a girl up there, hitting, pounding the ball, and I think, 'I want to dig that. I can get that up.' "

Tobias hasn't always had that mindset. She entered Maryville as an all-around player. When the NCAA implemented the libero - a defensive-minded position - her sophomore year, the switch took some getting used to.

"When you're out on the front line hitting, you make all the kills. It's really exciting. To go from that to defense, where you don't make the big plays, it's a totally different mindset," Tobias said. "At first it was like I was just passing the ball up, that's not fun. But once the season got going, I really got into it."

Tobias led the nation the past two years in digs and will look to top last year's season-best 1,110. She said she's at her best in big games, a trend likely to have started when she helped MND to three straight state championships in high school.

"It's her ability to read," Maryville head coach Kandis Schram said. "A lot of people don't have the instinct to read an offensive hitter. She has such an incredible natural ability to watch a hitter and know where the ball is going. And it's her quickness. She's just incredible to watch."

Maryville (8-2) is eyeing an independent berth in the NCAA tournament by the end of the season. Tobias' talent, her sometimes "corny," always fun attitude and her leadership will help, Schram said.

"(After she broke the record), she said, 'Wow, really? Cool. OK, What's next?' " Schram said. "She's really a team player. She's focused on what it means to the team. She's an incredible leader for the team."

Now, she's a leader of the NCAA, too.

Beth (Wells) Atnip/Sycamore High/UK

After finishing her soccer careers at Sycamore High School and the University of Kentucky, Atnip doesn't play the sport anymore. But she hardly has time to miss it.

ALL THUMBS

Thumbs up

Procter & Gamble Ohio Classic. The matchup of Grambling State and Bethune-Cookman is one of the most underrated events in the area. The black colleges have brought us the likes of Bengals great Kenny Riley (Florida A&M), Mel Blount (Southern), Deacon Jones (Mississippi Valley State) and the great, great Walter Payton (Jackson State), and legendary coach Eddie Robinson. Not to mention baseball's Lou Brock (Southern) - and the great bands.

SportsCenter's Salute to the Troops. ESPN spent the week at Camp Arifjan Army base doing live broadcasts in front of an audience, and using soldiers to announce highlights and such. Included were 2,000 troops that rotated in from a year's stay in Iraq. (And good luck to the solider who always held up his Bearcats flag.)

Carson Palmer. It probably will get harder before it gets easier, but his debut sure was a sight for sore Jack Thompson/David Klingler/Akili Smith eyes.

Barry Bonds. Hate him if you like. Suspect him of steroid wrongdoing if you choose. But don't ever underestimate what he's accomplishing. Robbed of more than one third of his at-bats this season by walks, he's having arguably the biggest impact on games of any player since the Babe.

Thumbs down

The Who Dey? cheer. The excitement surrounding the Bengals is refreshing. But is the Who Dey?  cheer the best the Bengals' faithful can do? Haven't we had 13 years to come up with something better? And for goodness sakes, wasn't that lame cheer stolen from the Saints?

Vince Carter. Another NBA player who has won nothing, who's overpaid, and who now is demanding a trade from the Raptors. Yawn.

The NHL. No longer one of the four major sports - see NASCAR - the owners and players appear bent on completely ruining the sport with a labor dispute. Oh well, looks as if the AHL Mighty Ducks will benefit with some NHL-caliber talent.

Hurricanes. Still.

--Mike Ball

Wells, who used to swim when she was younger, dove right into triathlons with the influence of her then-boyfriend, now-husband, Eric. She has done more than 20 with Eric since her first in 2001. She also helped start a triathlon club at UK with about 50 members and serves as a race director for triathlons, a career path she will look into after she finishes her MBA at UK.

"I like the triathlon better. It's individual. The pressure's on you, but I like being the one in control," Atnip said. "The best part about this sport is you get people who are young, old, people who are short, tall, large and small."

On Sept. 12, Atnip completed her second Ironman Wisconsin Triathlon, improving her time to 12 hours, 18 minutes. This weekend, she will direct a triathlon at the University of Kentucky to raise money for eye research. The race raised $5,000 last year. She hopes to double that this year with an estimated 250 participants.

The triathlon, which includes an 800-meter swim, a 20-mile bike and a 4-mile run, begins Sunday at 7 a.m. at UK's Lancaster Aquatic Center. Individual entry is $55. Team races are available. Visit www.triforsight.com.

Cincinnati A's

The A's went 7-0 Sept. 10-12 to win the Rec Division of the Black American Softball Association World Tournament in Columbus. The tournament division consisted of 95 teams from 18 states. The A's qualified for free entry after winning the Queen City Classic for the fifth year in a row in May.

In the championship game, the A's defeated the Blackhawks from Florida to take the title. Center fielder Donald Broach was named MVP, and Al "Bay Bay" Owens, Harvey Dodge, David Payne and Brian Anderson were named to the all-tournament team.

The team, which has been around since 1952 and consists of players ages 29-50, won one league and finished second in another this summer, team assistant manager Nicole Meadows said. They placed third in the B Division of the Cincinnati Metro Softball Tournament this year.

Shawn Enright/Lebanon

Enright, a four-time state qualifying wrestler and Junior National All-American from Lebanon High School in the early '90s, will be inducted into the Ohio University Athletics Hall of Fame Saturday.

"It's pretty exciting and kind of humbling," Enright said. "The people I'm being inducted with, it's strange to see my name with their names. ... those were names that were thrown around all the time."

Enright was a three-time Mid-American Conference champion and a two-time All-American at Ohio, his best finish coming as a fifth-year senior when he placed second in the NCAA tournament. He was an assistant wrestling coach at American University for four years before moving back to the area this summer.

He works with his brother and is taking some time off from wrestling, he said.

"I want to do something different," Enright said. "But I look forward to missing it ... getting that fire to wrestle again."




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