By Sarah Thompson
Baltimore County, Md. -- Making the transition from high school graduate to college freshman can be a stressful time for any teenager and having a familiar outlet is a great way to lessen anxiety.
For Nicole Lopez and Annette Thrappas that outlet is volleyball.
Not many know how therapeutic volleyball can be more than Knights' head volleyball coach Geoffrey Koger, who is entering his 13th season.
He is also aware of how important recruiting can be as well.
"Recruiting is the name of the game," Koger said. "There are a lot of colleges in the area against whom we have to compete."
Luckily for Koger and the Knights, he did not have far to travel to find Lopez.
Voted Parkville High School volleyball's team most valuable player, Lopez will be attending CCBC Essex this fall to continue her education and play the sport she loves.
"I have always loved playing volleyball since I was a little girl," said Lopez, a Puerto Rico native. "I can remember playing it in my hometown, and so when I came to high school I knew that volleyball was a sport I wanted to play."
Lopez, whom was also selected to the Baltimore County Senior All-Star Game, signed a National Junior College Athletic Association letter of intent in December 2017 and will be called upon to fill the libero position left by graduating sophomore Kelli Standiford.
She was a two-year starter for the Knights at Parkville, leading the team in serve percentage, aces and digs.
"[Nicole] is very quick, has good form and is pretty strong," said Koger. "I'm looking for her to be consistent, to be in the right place at the right time."
Lopez began playing volleyball in her hometown of Puerto Rico when she was 10-years-old. She is hoping to learn additional skills, make new friends and win this season. Lopez also wants to become a more dynamic setter and a solid server.
She is excited at the opportunity to continue playing at the next level and admits that she did not immediately realize her play on the court could help her in the classroom.
"I started playing in high school, and then coaches told me about [the opportunity to earn a volleyball] scholarship if wanted to keep playing," Lopez said. "I'm super excited and nervous for this new season, between meeting the new girls and coaches, and playing this sport I love."
Lopez would like to play at Towson University when she leaves CCBC.
Volleyball has always been a safe space for Thrappas; it is something that she has also felt she can come back too.
"I've always been competitive," said Thrappas. "But I never had a place to put that competitiveness, until volleyball came into my life.
"Volleyball has always been an escape for me, something I can always go back to. Like going back to your roots. It's like a home that I've found within a sport. It's always been something I have felt comfortable."
Thrappas began playing volleyball when she was 12-years-old. She admits that while she did not know much about the sport when she joined her friend for a tryout in sixth grade, she quickly came to love it.
"It was a right place at the right time kind of deal," she said.
Thrappas was a three-year starter and three-time All-Baltimore County volleyball student-athlete at George Washington Carver Center for the Arts and Technology (Baltimore County). She also played for Baltimore Elite volleyball club, and a middle school team at Redeemer Christian School (Kingsville, Md.).
At CCBC this fall, Thrappas is expected to be used as an outside and right-side hitter.
"She has a great attitude and is a very powerful hitter," Koger said, who was also her coach for the Baltimore Elite. "Annette will take some of the pressure off our other hitters and I think our rotation is going to be one that surprises a lot of people."
"I'm very excited to play at CCBC Essex," said Thrappas. "I'm excited for lots of competition and meeting new people, and playing for coach Koger again."
Volleyball can be an outlet for many girls. For Thrappas it is more than just a game; it is a place to call home and CCBC is her next stop to call home in her journey of playing volleyball.
"I have a lot of alumni student athletes that come back and help out," Koger said. "[Assistant] coach Carey Schuler has been with us for six years, and this season we've added another assistant in Taylor Franks who played for us seven years ago."
Knights' volleyball has become a second home for many over the last decade plus and looks to continue to maintain that environment for years to come.
Peyton Moyles contributed to this article.