Tigers fall short in state cham­pi­onship

Cecil Whig - - SPORTS - By SEAN GRO­GAN

sgro­gan@ce­cil­whig.com

— 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’

COL­LEGE PARK

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

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