Seahawks not to be denied against Wildcats
After playing the role of bridesmaid during its most recent trips to the regional volleyball finals, host South River finds itself one step away from the 4A state final altar following a thrilling 3-1 victory against two-time defending 4A East region champions Arundel Friday night.
Facing a Wildcats squad that ended South River's playoff run a year ago and defeated the Seahawks, 3-1, in the recently-held Anne Arundel County championship match, Samanta Tarabella and Savannah Doctor combined for 45 punishing kills, largely through 46 assists delivered from Emily Speciale, to lift South River, 27-25, 25-18, 23-25, 25-20, in what was a tightly-contested match throughout.
“We did just enough and they keep pushing at the doorstep,” said Seahawks coach Maureen Carter, whose squad won its first region crown since 1998 and will now play the winner of Bethesda-Chevy Chase-Northwest on Monday at the University of Maryland's Ritchie Coliseum with a spot in the 4A final on the line. “We kept coming at them. They're a very good team. We were just a little bit better.”
Tarabella (28 kills, 25 digs) and Doctor (17 kills) made sure of that with numerous missile-like spikes that either pounded the court, deflected hard and wide off a bump attempt or was blocked out of bounds by Arundel's athletic frontline of Mackenzie Meehan (14 kills), Abrielle Scrivner (12 kills), Brooke Watts (10 kills) and Aaliyah Griffin (10 kills).
“We knew it was going to be really hard,” Tarabella said. “We've been preparing for this all season. I think we expected it to be us two at the end. We finally got redemption against them this year. Senior year, going to state semis, it's all I can ask for.”
South River (16-2) used an ace off the hand of Erin Canter (15 for 15 serving, seven kills) and a pair of kills by Doctor to slip past the Wildcats (17-3) in the first game. The Seahawks pushed that advantage 2-0 with a more comfortable seven-point victory in the second game behind some timely kills from Tarabella and the serving of Speciale and Samantha Doudna, whose ace sealed the 25-18 win.
“I rarely say officials play a role in a game, but there were some really strange calls at strange times and they got the benefit of that and they also did what they needed to do and we weren't as clean as we needed to be,” Arundel coach Ashley Yuscavage said.
The Wildcats roared back in game three, opening up an early 10-3 lead behind the serving of Fiona Gonzalez Medina and the dominating play of Meehan at the net with a handful of thunderous spikes of her own, including the game-winner that sailed off the arms of Tarabella and out of the reach of her teammates to force a fourth game. South River had rallied to within 24-23 before that timely kill.
Speciale won four straight service points to open the decisive fourth game, largely behind two kills from Tarabella, to supply the Seahawks a lead they would never fully relinquish en route to the 25-20 victory. The Wildcats pulled to within, 23-20, but a Tarabella spike was blocked out of bounds and Speciale recorded an ace to lock up the program's eighth regional championship.
“Everyone played their role correctly,” Doctor said. “They did their job.”