The 2023 All-Aegis girls volleyball team: Fallston’s Kyra Douglass’ leadership evident in her Player of the Year campaign

When the clangor of an away crowd feels monstrous or the glare of a gym’s overhead lights appear blinding, Fallston girls volleyball leans on Kyra Douglass.

Her forte in those moments is to distract. Sometimes Douglass opens non-volleyball-related dialogue. Or, she says, she’ll drop in a stupid joke. But she’ll always remind her teammates she has their back, refusing to let others dwell on mistakes.

“I feel like people will come on the court and feel stressed out and worried about their playing time,” Douglass said. “Especially the [underclassmen]. They’d be really nervous when they come on the court. I wanted to make sure they didn’t implode or feel like they’re alone.”

That’s the kind of teammate she once saw and the kind of leader The Aegis 2023 girls volleyball Player of the Year and recent Shippensburg University verbal commit strives to be.

Douglass can rise up the net and tally kills with the best of them: 250 kills, 170 digs and 35 aces to be exact. But trying to describe herself as an outside hitter, she leaves the numbers and team success on the cutting room floor. Douglass pivots to her motivational tactics because, thinking back to the seniors who once calmed her nerves, “I know how it feels like to play with someone who’s very motivating.”

How does it feel?

“I don’t think Kyra sees it,” her mom-coach Layna Douglass said. “But she inspires the other players to be better. She doesn’t do it in a demanding way. It’s more her leading by example. She plays her heart out and works hard all the time. The other girls see that and they see the results so I think it makes them want to play harder as well.”

Credit Layna for her daughter’s introduction to the sport. OK, maybe half credit.

Layna considers herself a volleyball lifer. Her daughter was in seventh grade when she decided to give volleyball a try through the Fallston Rec Center. “I was super excited when she was like, ‘I think I want to try some volleyball,’” Layna said. “I was like, ‘Alright!’”

After only one season, Kyra decided to ditch soccer and lacrosse to focus on volleyball.

Her freshman season was wiped by the pandemic, so her varsity career began as a sophomore, the same year Layna took the head coaching chair. The partnership proved beneficial but required working out a good system.

Junior varsity coach Christopher Kraft would, at times, work closer with Kyra while Layna more often handled the rest of a team. That way they could avoid on-court mother-daughter bickering, instead, relying on a bit of telepathy or saving feedback for after practices and games.

“She knew what my expectations were,” Layna said. “I do think we developed a mutual respect for each other on the court and … in some ways lean on each other.”

Not only was Kyra a leader within her group, she also became a liaison for helping Coach understand the pulse of the group. In three years since being promoted to the Chesapeake Division, the Cougars built from eight to 12 to 15 wins with the Douglasses.

This year was undoubtedly the most fun for Kyra. Her light-heartedness set the tone for the team, easing tension that accompanied being one of the conference’s top teams.

“Especially my libero Grace Pfaff, we’re always joking with each other and screwing around even if it’s in the middle of a game. Don’t tell Coach I said that,” Kyra quipped with her mom beside her. “I like making the tense games feel a little more laid back.”

Kyra never loses sight of the fun in her sport. But the fun never detracted from her dominance.

In a five-set battle with Bel Air on Sept. 21, Layna remembers her daughter stringing together a four-or-five kill solo run. The student section present broke into a “You can’t stop her!” chant. That stretch against a fellow top opponent that they previously had never beaten was a proud moment for Mom and Coach. “She was undeniable,” Layna said.

“I always promised myself I’m never going to be affected by anyone in the stands – being nice or being mean or anything. I just ignore them. That day I actually stopped and smiled when I heard them say, ‘You can’t stop her.’”

It’s games like that where Kyra’s words feed into her preference to stay light-hearted, but her actions better resemble a competitor more eager to rip your heart out and lay it pulsing at center court — a juxtaposition that guided Fallston this season.

All-Aegis first team

Mia Jelen, John Carroll, sophomore, hitter

John Carroll got 107 kills, 43 aces, 43 digs and three blocks from Jelen.

Anna Kane, Bel Air, junior, hitter

Kane finished her junior season with 124 kills, 131 digs, 122 assists, 31 aces and 23 blocks.

Jocelyn Kruger, Aberdeen, senior, hitter

Kruger was a dominant piece for Aberdeen, receiving first-team nominations from several coaches around the county.

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Ana Mioduski, C. Milton Wright, junior, hitter

The core of C. Milton Wright’s state playoff run totaled 128 kills, 111 digs and a whopping 51 aces.

Cara Hoover, C. Milton Wright, senior, middle blocker

Hoover was a crucial piece of C. Milton Wright’s success, totaling 77 kills and 23 blocks.

Cami Naugle, C. Milton Wright, senior, middle blocker

Naugle was an interior force for the Mustangs. She had 106 kills, 28 aces and 15 blocks this fall.

Samantha Ruth, Fallston, junior, setter

Ruth set Fallston up for success with 310 assists, 70 digs and 40 aces on the year.

Zoe Valan, Patterson Mill, junior, setter

Patterson Mill charged deep into the state playoffs thanks to Valan’s consistently strong presence, totaling 433 assists, 104 digs, 47 kills and 42 aces.

Presley Givens, Perryville, senior, defensive specialist

The Panthers were led by Givens’ 168 serve receptions, 165 digs, 104 serving points, 22 aces and 20 assists through 13 games.

Grace Pfaff, Fallston, senior, libero

Pfaff finished her senior campaign with 350 digs, 35 aces, 35 assists and 10 kills, helping lead Fallston to the Class 2A East Region I championship.

Ava Shores, Patterson Mill, senior, libero

The area’s top digs total belonged to Shores this fall. She finished with 447, complemented by 42 aces, 33 assists and 29 kills.

All-Aegis second team

Grace Bonhoff, Patterson Mill, senior, hitter

Kayden Hardenbrook, Bel Air, senior, hitter

Maddie Duffalo, C. Milton Wright, junior, hitter

Sophie Lopano, C. Milton Wright, sophomore, hitter

Emily Signor, North Harford, junior, middle blocker

Kayleigh Cress, Fallston, junior, middle blocker

Megan Schindhelm, Bel Air, senior, defensive specialist

Jenna Ritz, C. Milton Wright, junior, setter

Tia Pegler, Bel Air, senior, setter

Ashley Blanca, Harford Tech, senior, libero

Olivia Lawrence, C. Milton Wright, senior, libero