QA’s, KI go the dis­tance

Lions clinch re­gion fi­nal berth in epic five-set­ter

Record Observer - - Sports - By WIL­LIAM HAUFE bhaufe@star­dem.com

Q.Anne’s 3 — K. Is­land 2

CENTREVILLE — Kim Re­menter-Betts has never been so ex­hausted af­ter a match dur­ing her 10 years as Queen Anne’s County High’s head vol­ley­ball coach.

“We’ve had good teams,” Re­menter-Betts said. “We’ve had some stand­out play­ers. But the unit didn’t work to­gether. And these kids are def­i­nitely a team.”

A team that bat­tled through nine ties in the fi­nal game Wednes­day night be­fore out­last­ing Kent Is­land for an epic 25-19, 2125, 25-21, 22-25, 15-13 vic­tory in the Class 2A East Sec­tion II ti­tle match. And a team that Fri­day will bid for its first 2A East Re­gion cham­pi­onship in school his­tory, when it faces Sec­tion I champ Ris­ing Sun. A coin flip sched­uled for 8 a.m. this morn­ing will de­cide who hosts Fri­day’s re­gion fi­nal.

“We love these kids,” said Re­menter-Betts, whose team im­proved to 16-0. “They’re the best group of chil­dren. They’re the most coach­able group of kids I have ever had. They’ll give you ev­ery­thing they have. Ev­ery­thing they have; no at­ti­tude, no ex­cuses.

“Even when they get in a lull, which I feel we have been in the last cou­ple of games, we re­ally pushed in­ten­sity, heart, pride, fo­cus, all these things,” Re­menter-Betts added. “And they came out and they knew. They knew. We looked each other in the eye and it was a se­ri­ous mo­ment. And they didn’t want their sea­son to come to an end.”

Many in a crowd that filled half of the gym­na­sium may have won­dered if this third meet­ing be­tween the two county ri­vals would ever end.

Kent Is­land (12-5), which had won six straight since a 3-2 loss to the Lions on Oct. 13, in­clud­ing Mon­day’s play­off sweep of No. 2 seed North Caro­line, jumped to an 8-2 lead on top-seeded Queen Anne’s in the first game, prompt­ing Re­menter-Betts to call time.

“I just told the girls they needed to re­group and set­tle and fo­cus on their game,” Re­menter-Betts said.

Queen Anne’s ral­lied, as Emma Feaga went on a six-point ser­vice tear that forged an 8-8 tie — the first of five ties in the open­ing game — be­fore the Lions outscored the Bucs 17-11 over the stretch.

Game 2 also fea­tured five dead­locks, but Kent Is­land never re­lin­quished the lead af­ter snap­ping a 12-12 tie, as Jahtera Kiah knocked down the fi­nal point to even the match 1-1.

“When we were on the at­tack we were do­ing well,” Kent Is­land head coach Pa­trick Hop­kins said.

The third set was an­other back-and-forth duel, that in­cluded nine ties, the last at 21-21. With Queen Anne’s Kelly Ca­vanagh serv­ing, Kent Is­land hit a re­turn wide be­fore the Lions’ Al­lie Har­ris dropped in a pair of win­ners at the net to help seal the four­point win.

“I knew they were a tough chal­lenge to play. And I knew we could pos­si­bly go five games,” said Feaga, of the only team to take the Lions to five games dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son.

Kent Is­land wouldn’t wilt, break­ing a 2-2 tie on the way to build­ing a 17-11 lead in the fourth set. But the Lions again ral­lied, Re­becca Clay’s tap at the net forg­ing a 19-19 tie. The give-and­take con­tin­ued un­til Kiah’s kill gave the Bucs a three­p­oint cush­ion, and Macey Strunk’s kill sealed a 25-22 vic­tory, forc­ing Game 5.

“I hon­estly felt go­ing into that fifth game that we had it. I re­ally did,” Re­menterBetts said. “I re­ally be­lieved that be­cause they’ve shown us that in the past.

“I told them in that last match, ‘You need to be the ag­gres­sor. We can’t keep push­ing the ball and tip­ping the ball right to them. We need to be the ag­gres­sor.’”

The fifth set reached its sixth tie at 8-8, be­fore Clay’s kill and a wide re­turn from Kent Is­land pushed Queen Anne’s to a 10-8 lead. Hop­kins called time, then watched the Lions serve into the net be­fore Han­nah Mo­ran’s serve was sent wide to tie the match at 10-all. The ninth tie of the set came at 12-12 be­fore Har­ris found an open space for a win­ner that gave the Lions a 13-12 lead and Clay the serve.

“I was mess­ing up dur­ing the game mul­ti­ple times by serv­ing,” Clay said. “And I just knew I had to calm down, fo­cus on what I needed to do, act like it was as nor­mal prac­tice, and serve it over and get the job done.”

Feaga drilled a win­ner from the left side, nudg­ing the Lions lead to 14-12. Kiah an­swered with a kill on the next ball, draw­ing the Bucs within 14-13. With a chance to pull even again, Kent Is­land’s Ok­sana Fesz served, watched the ball get volleyed be­fore Queen Anne’s Kayla Blann set up Feaga, who blasted the match- and ti­tle-win­ning kill for the 15-13 fi­nal.

“I saw it come up,” Feaga said of Blann’s 41st as­sist of the match. “I knew I had to be ag­gres­sive as coach yells at me all the time. I just ham­mered it.”

“I was so ex­cited,” Clay said. “It was just a sigh of re­lief that we didn’t have to keep go­ing and go­ing. I was so ex­cited I started cr ying.” She wasn’t the only one. “Re­ally proud of Emma for tak­ing that fi­nal swing and not tens­ing up and be­ing scared,” said Re­menter-Betts, who dropped her clip­board and shed a few tears af­ter Feaga’s clincher. “She re­ally went for it and it paid off big.”

Said Hop­kins, whose team was 6-4 at one point this sea­son, “This is what cham­pi­onships are; you play to the end.

“Some­body had to win, some­body had to lose,” Hop­kins said. “It’s just we played to the very end. I couldn’t have asked for any­thing more. Do we wish we can get a cou­ple of mis­takes back? Yes. But we com­peted. The girls played re­ally, re­ally hard. I told my girls, I think we were evenly matched. I’m proud of my team.”

Notes: Queen Anne’s Blann fin­ished with eight digs . ... Also putting up big num­bers for the Lions were Kai­ley Boomer (24 digs, seven kills), Feaga (14 kills, 22 digs), Har­ris (15 kills, four blocks), Ca­vanagh (12 kills, six blocks, 15 digs), Clay (12 digs) and Sydney Par­sons (nine digs). … Kent Is­land was led by Strunk (22 kills), Fesz (14 kills), Mo­ran (16 kills, 10 digs, six blocks), Jen­nifer Hous­ton (12 digs), Kiah (nine kills) and Vic­to­ria Zens (six blocks) . ... There were 32 ties over the five games.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter @Bil­l_Haufe. Email me at bhaufe@star­dem.com

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