QA Lions outlast upset-minded Bulldogs
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.”
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.