Tigers fall short in state championship
— Four different times, the Rising Sun volleyball team was one point away from seeing its season end in three games.
But the Tigers refused to lose in straight sets. They wouldn’t let their previously perfect season end with a sweep.
Rising Sun rallied to win the third and fourth games, but the Tigers’
quest to defend their 2A state volleyball title fell one set short as they lost, 3-2, to new state champions Williamsport Saturday afternoon at University of Maryland’s Ritchie Coliseum.
“If you’re going to play a state championship match, that’s what you want to see. I have to say I’m proud of my kids,” Rising Sun coach Rich Wilson said. “Down 2-0, never gave up — came back in the third, came back in the fourth and a seasaw fifth. A couple of points here, a couple of breaks there, in this kind of match, that’s all it takes. Hat’s off to Williamsport.”
The Tigers led the first set 17-10, but the Wildcats rallied to take it by a 25-23 score. Rising Sun dropped the second set 25-18, and the previously unbeaten Tigers were suddenly a game away from defeat.
Rising Sun appeared poised to claim Game 3, leading 24-21, but then surrendered four straight points. The Tigers suddenly trailed 25-24 and were a single one point away from a straight-set loss.
After tying the set at 25, they again fell behind by scores of 26-25, 2726 and 29-28. A Williamsport point would’ve ended the match each time.
A Wildcats serve hit the net to tie the set at 29. Senior Lacey Swartout gave Rising Sun a 30-29 lead with a service ace. She followed it up with a consecutive ace that won the set, 31-29, for the Tigers.
“We’re all really close and we did it for each other. We all played our hearts out because we did not want to lose in three,” Swartout said. “It was way better to go out in five than it was in three because we tried and we worked together. We kind of just flipped the switch and were like, ‘We have to do this. We have to get past this third game.’”
The Tigers won the fourth set, 25-18, to force a decisive Game 5, which would be played to 15.
Rising Sun surrendered the first three points of the fifth set. It trailed 8-5, before scoring four unanswered to take a 9-8 lead. Swartout capped
the run with a tip kill from the left side of the net to an open spot on the right side of the court.
Williamsport answered with consecutive points to take the lead for keeps and went on to win the set 1511.
“We like to dig ourselves into holes and then climb out of them. In a 15- point game, you can’t do that,” senior Sarah Williams said. “These girls are the best team I’ve been on. I’m proud of what we did. Even though we lost, I’m always going to love these girls. I’m proud of them.”
Though Williamsport fans occupied a majority of Ritchie Coliseum, a pack of rabid Tigers’ faithful made sure their presence was more than felt throughout.
“Our fan section is one of the best, if not the best, in Maryland. We’re all very close to our fans and they’ll follow us anywhere,” se- nior Maddy Eckerd said. “It definitely fuels the fire.”
Rising Sun graduates a nucleus of seniors, including Swartout, Williams, Eckerd and Breanne Haley, that have lost three games in as many seasons and leave with a state championship to their names.
“This has been my only team. I started when I was in eighth grade. We’ve grown together so close that, yeah we lost, but I won in my heart,” Haley said. “I’ll always remember these girls and what we’ve been through. I’d way rather go out in five than three and I’m proud of us.”
Wilson will always remember this particular group, too.
“I can’t say enough about these kids,” he said. “The four years I’ve coached them [have been] some of the best years of my life. I’ll be sad to see them go, maybe I’ll follow them to college.”
Follow Sean Grogan on Twitter: @ Sean_ CecilWhig