QA Lions outlast up­set-minded Bull­dogs

Times-Record - - Sports - By DAVID INSLEY dins­ley@star­dem.com

CENTREVILLE — It wasn’t the start Kim Betts had hoped for at Jody Hyde Gym­na­sium, but she got the fin­ish she wanted.

Queen Anne’s County High’s vol­ley­ball team dropped the first set of Wed­nes­day night’s Class 2A East, Sec­tion II cham­pi­onship to North Caro­line, de­spite win­ning 14 of the set’s last 23 points.

“They re­ally came out strong,” said Betts, the Lions head coach, of the sec­ond-seeded Bull­dogs. “They gave us all we wanted tonight. They played tough; we were strong enough to hold on, and it showed we can play through some tough times.”

The top-seeded Lions ral­lied, win­ning the sec­ond and third sets, but North Caro­line an­swered by tak­ing the fourth. In the end, though, Syd­ney Fenex’s stand at the net in the fifth set proved piv­otal, help­ing guide Queen Anne’s to a 2325, 25-16, 25-19, 18-25, 15-9 vic­tor y.

The win puts the Lions (14-2) in Fri­day’s re­gional fi­nal at 5 p.m. at Ris­ing Sun. The Tigers swept Fall­ston, 3-0, Wed­nes­day night to take the Sec­tion I ti­tle.

De­spite the loss, North Caro­line head coach Amanda Van­skiver was pleased. “This might have been the best we’ve played to­gether all year,” she said.

“We didn’t have any of that [at­ten­tion-deficit] stuff like last time,” said Van­skiver, al­lud­ing to the Bull­dogs’ five-set sec­tional semi­fi­nal win Mon­day against Kent Is­land. “They re­ally played a great match, be­gin­ning to end.”

The teams traded points early in the open­ing set be­fore the Bull­dogs (124) took a 6-5 lead. Though the set was tied a cou­ple of times there­after, North Caro­line pulled out by as many as seven points. The Lions tied it, 22-22, be­fore the Bull­dogs surged ahead with two quick points. Queen Anne’s sur­vived the first set point at 24-22, when a Bull­dog vol­ley flew long, but the en­su­ing ser­vice point by Lions sailed into the net, end­ing it at 2523 in the fa­vor of the vis­i­tors.

“They beat us 3-0 and 3-1, in the two (reg­u­lar-sea­son) matches we had with them this year,” Van­skiver said. “We hadn’t led them at all in sets un­til tonight.”

The sec­ond was nip-and­tuck most of the way, un­til, ahead 13-12, the Lions put to­gether a 3-1 run. Though the Bull­dogs pulled within a sin­gle point four times in the set, they fell short on ser­vice im­me­di­ately af­ter — and the Lions sealed it with a 9-1 spurt down the stretch to even the match.

The third set was a nut­shell ver­sion of the en­tire night, the teams trad­ing blows back and forth for al­most half an hour. At one stretch of 13 points, 11 dif­fer­ent play­ers served, and only once did a team win con­sec­u­tive points.

The Lions led 11-7 af­ter that fu­ri­ous ex­change, but it led to an­other one, in which the Lions, af­ter three ties, used a 4-0 Lion run to opened it up. Un­able to match them, the Bull­dogs fell off the pace and lost the third set, 25-19.

The Bull­dogs opened the fourth set strong. North Caro­line won the first four points off the ser­vice of Ali Ward — Queen Anne’s had won the first two or more points of all of the first three sets — and were up 8-2 be­fore Betts called a time­out to re­or­ga­nize.

“The girls on both sides re­ally played hard,” Betts said. “There was never re­ally a point where you felt safe in this match.”

North Caro­line stayed hot af­ter the stop­page, though, and led 19-8 be­fore the Lions made it re­spectable, trim­ming the deficit to 23-18, be­fore los­ing the last two, and the set, which evened the match.

Then it was Fenex’s turn to shine. With four kills and a pair of blocks in the fifth set for the home team, “she stepped up huge,” Betts said of Fenex. “She played a ver y piv­otal role for us tonight.

“She had a phe­nom­e­nal night,” Betts added. “(She had) big kills, and she even had blocks ... of shots from their back row, too. She just had a very huge night tonight.”

Down 4-2 in the fi­nal set, the Lions ral­lied with three points, and moved to a 9-8 lead, as Bull­dog libero Sarah Mast put the ball up.

set, the Lions ral­lied with three points, and moved to a 9-8 lead, as Bull­dog libero Sarah Mast put the ball up.

Fenex used all of her 5-foot-11inch frame to tap the ball softly be­hind the front line of Bull­dog de­fend­ers, break­ing their serve and giv­ing her team a two-point lead. Ha­ley Stallings served for the next four points to make it 14-8.

The Bull­dogs, fac­ing a match point, got the first one, to pull to within 14-9, but that was as close as it got, the Lions win­ning the match on the next point.

Queene Anne’s Kelly Ca­vanagh reg­is­tered 12 kills, three blocks, and 15 digs, while Al­lie Har­ris notch­ing 12 kills, three blocks and six digs. Lion libero Syd­ney Par­sons had 10 digs from the back row.

“We made 16 ser­vice er­rors,” Betts said. “There were mo­ments when we were def­i­nitely out of synch. In the fourth set, it wasn’t about win­ning the match as much as it was about get­ting the right per­son­nel in place as things went on. We came out of the fourth set with more in­ten­sity and more ball con­trol, and we were able to use our hit­ters and put the ball down. And we took ad­van­tage of net play.

“We hadn’t trailed them be­fore,” Betts added. “So that was a new look for us, and it was good that we could bat­tle back.”

Van­skiver lauded her team’s in­ten­sity.

“Be­fore this, we talked about ex­pec­ta­tions, and what peo­ple thought of our chances,” Van­skiver said. “And they re­ally lived up to all I had hoped they could do.”

“We lose seven se­niors this year, in­clud­ing both our liberos, and a lot of tal­ent,” Van­skiver con­tin­ued. “But I think we’ve got some good girls com­ing back, and we’ve got (peo­ple) com­ing up from jayvee so I think we’ll be able to get back into it pretty quick.”

PHOTO BY DAVID INSLEY

North Caro­line’s Ali Ward serves the fi­nal point of the fourth set Wed­nes­day night in Centreville. The Bull­dogs won that set, 25-18 but Queen Anne’s won the match, 23-25, 25-16, 25-19, 18-25, 15-9.

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