It was easy to spot Beth Erb running sprints at the Charlotte Country Day basketball practice last week. She was the only girl out there.
The Bucs' girls team didn't have practice, so she decided to work out with the boys.
"It's definitely a lot harder to play against the guys because the skill level is like a whole different spectrum," said Erb. "It gets me to like move faster and really focus on my ball handling."
Erb, a junior, is in her third year as a varsity starter for Country Day, leads the team in points, averaging about 19 more than the next closest player on her team, and is a hard worker.
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"She just brings an element that rises everyone else's game up to her," said coach Andre Haston, who is in his second year as varsity head coach after leading the junior varsity team four years.
Erb, who is listed at 5-foot-6 but admits she's more like 5-foot-5, averaged 23.6 points per game through Country Day's first five games. She scored 29 in the season opener against Covenant Day, 25 against High Point Christian and 32 of the Bucs' 41 points in a win over Fort Mill (S.C.).
Haston says that she's usually not forcing or taking bad shots. Her season field goal percentage is at 53 percent.
"At no point in time does it feel forced. ... It's all in the flow of the game," he said.
Though she doesn't think about how much she's scoring, it is the first thing Erb asks about after a game. Last year, she averaged 13.6 points but had help from seniors Brittany Powell (8.7 points) and Sydney Jones (8.5 points).
Now Erb is the main scorer, which puts more pressure on the 16-year-old.
"I definitely feel a lot of pressure sometimes," she said. "I get really down when I miss a shot because I feel like I have to be on my game all the time."
But Erb does get help from her teammates. Junior Rachel Roberts can take over at point guard during the game and junior transfer Hanna Krueger leads the team in assists and rebounds and can take the toughest defensive assignment on the court to give Erb a break.
Erb "stands out in the point column but everybody's just doing their role as a member of this team and working hard," said Haston.
Haston calls Erb, who is in her second year as team captain, a natural leader, guiding the team by example and by talking to them. She helped organize workouts over the summer.
During halftime of a game this year while Haston was talking with his coaches, Erb was talking to her teammates, drawing plays on a white board and making the same points Haston wanted to make.
Haston said Erb has improved her court vision and also how to "play that chess match against the defender," mixing up her moves when she brings the ball down the court.
"One of the things she's doing is she knows how to pick and choose her spots," he said. "Everybody else may not be scoring as much but they're still involved and getting up shots. ... People are just coming together around her and that's what makes her so good."
Erb started playing basketball when she was young, but soccer was her main sport until seventh grade. Erb said she is indecisive, swimming year round for a while, playing tennis in the fall, then switching to field hockey, and alternating between soccer and track in the spring. This year she's a three-sport athlete at Country Day, playing field hockey, basketball and soccer.
Erb is the youngest of four siblings, all of whom played sports. They used to play two-on-two basketball in the yard growing up.
Erb said her siblings are her role models and she's using what they taught her to lead the Bucs this year.
Country Day started the season 2-3 and has a tough conference schedule with Providence Day and Charlotte Christian, but Erb and Haston like playing the underdog role.
Last year, the team had T-shirts with a quote on them that still fits this year's team: "Hard work beats talent when talent is not working hard."
"We're scrappy," said Erb. "We'll be on the floor for balls. We have a lot of jump balls and that is something you can't really teach a player."
Erb recently decided she wants to play basketball in college. She knows she's starting late, but she's ready to work for it, even if it means practicing more with the boys' team.
"I'm definitely not settling for how I'm playing right now," she said.