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Two of a kind are on the way up

Nicole Britenriker and Beverly Stasis haven't met frequently, but likely will soon in leading their teams' playoff ambitions.

By BOB PUTNAM

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 26, 2001


Measuring Countryside's Beverly Stasis against East Lake's Nicole Britenriker is unavoidable in the foreseeable future.

Stasis was a first-team Times All-County player last season and helped lead the Cougars to their first state final four appearance.

Britenriker was second-team All-County and helped lead the Eagles to the No. 1 seed in the district for the third year in a row.

Both are talented outside hitters and will be in the same district for the first time this season.

Yet the most telling, and perhaps scariest, thing that links these players is their age.

Both are 15.

The two most dominating players in the county are sophomores who do not have driver's licenses, yet Stasis and Britenriker already are on the fast track to stardom. The torch has been passed as they lead a new generation of stars after so many teams graduated top players. Welcome to Volleyball 90210.

"It's rare to have two players who are so young and so good," East Lake coach Terry Small said. "But it's also nice to see."

Last season, Stasis and Britenriker skipped the age-old rites of passage as freshman, foregoing pine-splintered apprenticeships to start right away. The new-breed freshmen even hazed their elders by becoming go-to players and being named on all-star teams.

Stasis and Britenriker made significant contributions and were better equipped to make a name for themselves because they played year-round in club circuits against the best competition in major arenas all over the country.

"Club volleyball really helped prepare for when I came in as a freshman," said Stasis, who played at the YMCA for three seasons but decided to skip it this summer because of back problems. "I was more prepared when I played club, but I can feel the difference since I didn't play this past season."

Another factor that helped Stasis adapt was playing with standout freshman Katelen Dixon. The two were part of a strong attack for the Cougars. Stasis flirted with the idea of attending the magnet program at Palm Harbor University, but decided to stay so she could continue playing with Dixon, whom she has played with since middle school.

But the duo was separated two weeks ago when Dixon decided to transfer to Mitchell in Pasco County to play for her father, Mustangs coach Joe Dixon.

"There's more pressure on me now," Stasis said.

Britenriker has pressure, too. But she doesn't feel it.

"I'm never nervous on the court," she said.

After playing in middle school, Britenriker did not take the sport seriously until the summer before her freshman year. She tried out for the High Performance Camp, an Olympic development team for 13- to 15-year olds which trains in Colorado Springs. Britenriker made it again this year, one of 32 girls in the country to do so. She also made Team Florida.

But the success hasn't gone to her head.

"I'm still Nicole," she said.

Although Stasis and Britenriker have so much in common, they haven't really met, except on the court. That is something they'll do plenty of this season.

"I don't know her personally, but I know who she is," Britenriker said. "She's good, and it's nice to have a rivalry."

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