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Pirates star plays for good of the team

When Crystal River's Diana Baughman envisioned her senior volleyball season, she didn't picture a sub-.500 record or a lineup filled with sophomores. But that's what she got.

And she's learned to deal with it.

"I hoped we would be the best," Baughman said recently. "Sometimes I get frustrated, but as long as I know everybody's trying I remember how it feels to be young and for everybody to expect you to know everything."

Baughman was the only sophomore in the starting lineup in 1988, when the Pirates won district and regional titles on the way to an 18-4 record. She watched seniors Trudee Foltz, Reshell McKinnon and Sheryl Laplante enjoy success beyond their wildest imaginations that year, and had no reason to assume her farewell season would be anything less.

But, so far, it hasn't come close.

Crystal River closed out the regular season Wednesday night with a three-game loss to Land O'Lakes, dropping the Pirates' overall record to 9-10. Last year, Crystal River broke even, 12-12.

"I was glad she got that taste of victory as a sophomore," head coach Vicki Browning said, "because this year it's been a real struggle because we're so young."

Yet, Baughman has managed to persevere as a most talented player on a young, inexperienced squad, sacrificing personal glory for future team success.

Browning knows it hasn't been easy.

"She played more for herself as a sophomore, and that was all right," Browning said. "But she's not playing for herself at all this year. She's such a team player this year. She's letting herself go and worrying about the team.

"She's gone out of the starting lineup as a setter and gone to the back row," Browning said. "I told her she had a great shot at getting a Gulf Coast Conference award as a setter, but she said, "Ms. Browning, I don't care if I get anything. It's what's good for the team.'

"It takes a pretty big person to say something like that," Browning said. "It's been very rewarding for me to have her around this year."

Baughman doesn't consider her actions anything special. To her, they're only logical.

"The way I look at it," Baughman said, "I'm not going to play in college, and if it means that as a team we're going to play better, I'd rather everybody be more comfortable and confident for all the games we have to play together.

"I think when I switched to the back row two or three weeks ago, everybody got more confident," she said. "It gave Gidgette (Griffin) a chance to set, and she'll need to be good for next year."

Sometimes, Browning doesn't know how Baughman can stand it.

"It's got to be tough knowing you might make a perfect pass and the setter will blow it or that they can't hit your sets," Browning said. "It gets really frustrating for good players to know that if they had any help at all they could be winning.

"But it's not that the kids aren't trying, they're young."

And that, Baughman said, is why she has remained patient.

"I'm really impressed with the way everybody's doing, working as hard as they can to be the best they can," said Baughman, whose only sport is volleyball.

But as the Pirates head into the Class 2A, District 9 tournament on Tuesday, it's looking like 1988 may have to provide Baughman's fondest volleyball memories.

And for that, at least, Baughman is grateful.

"I feel lucky that I had the chance for our team to be as good as we were then," she said. "I'll always look back and say, "Well, all right. We were that good for one year.'

"

It just wasn't her senior year.

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